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Charlie Daniels Band Set To Release 35th Album

Road Dogs reflects veteran Southern rocker's aim to follow his muse.

NASHVILLE — The outspoken Charlie Daniels is seldom at a loss for words, but the veteran country-rocker said he was stopped cold by the shootings at Columbine High School.

"I was so touched by that and the stand that those kids took for their faith — especially that little girl who stood up for her faith and then died."

So he wrote "The Martyr" — a song about Cassie Bernall, who was killed at the Colorado school — for the Charlie Daniels Band's 35th album, the new Road Dogs, on Daniels' own Blue Hat Records.

"It just really touched me, and, being a Christian," Daniels said, "I wanted to write a song about her."

For Daniels, writing and recording the song fit perfectly with the plan he's devised for his future in music. It's a future that involves, by and large, doing exactly what he wants.

"I've been recycling music for the last few years," Daniels said, "and I've decided to spend the rest of my career recording only what I want to record. One of the things I wanted to do was a blues album, so I did that. And I wanted to re-record all the fiddle tunes, so I did that. And I wanted to do a tribute album, so I did that. So then it was time for some new music. That's what this album is all about."

Another socially relevant subject he addresses on the album — tongue-in-cheek — is the justice system in California. "It comes from watchin' the O.J. [Simpson] trial," he said. "It just seemed like there was no law in California. I just said, good gosh, California's just gone to the dogs, and I wrote the song ["Ain't No Law in California" (RealAudio excerpt)]. I think people take what I do with a grain of salt. I certainly don't have anything against California, but this is a song I felt."

Going His Own Way

He's fairly happy, he said, now at his own record label, Blue Hat Records, and working at his own pace.

"I went through a period where I got blindsided by record companies — I say blindsided, I was lookin' straight at it — I was tryin' to do what they felt like they could get placed on radio, and I'm just not that kind of artist, I don't fit in that box. I don't blame them for takin' me in that direction; I blame them for allowing them to do so.

"There's a couple of albums that I did that I'm not real proud of — I'm not ashamed of them, but I'm not real proud of them," Daniels said. "The last one I did with Capitol I did with studio musicians — some of the finest studio musicians in the world, for that matter — but I'd never recorded without my band, I just don't do that, and I was pretty much pressured into doing it, and I really regret it. Because it was not me and my band, and it was too perfect and too homogenized."

Breaking Formats

There's no danger of that on Road Dogs, which captures the raw and edgy feel of the CDB on such tracks as the title song (

">RealAudio excerpt).

"I am not a great singer, I am not a natural musician," Daniels continued. "I write, sing and play, and when I put all that together, it comes out as Charlie Daniels, and if any of those parts are left out, then it's not Charlie Daniels.

"That's what I feel is missing in country music now, they're doing this pristine three-minute-and-two-seconds thing. This album has songs seven minutes long. I said, hell, if it takes that long to get the story out, let the song be seven minutes long.

"Heck, I've enjoyed it," he said. "It's been a long time since we put a lot of pickin' on a record, so I said, damn, let 'er rip."

Daniels said he feels the Southern country-rock audience is now made up of people who used to be part of the country audience.

"They're leavin' country radio again. Because they don't hear Hank [Williams] Jr. on country radio," he said. "You know, if I ran a country radio station, I'd play Lynyrd Skynyrd, because that demographic of people who came to country radio love Lynyrd Skynyrd. That audience is a little older but still the same people. We're doing a tour right now with Hank Jr. and Little Feat, and it's those same people who come out and have a good time."

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