Even though country music icon Charlie Daniels has been performing professionally for more than 50 years, the North Carolina native and Nashville resident is excited about his new album “Land That I Love,” a compilation of patriotic songs he cut over the decades, as well as new songs “Iraq Blues” and “(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks 2010.”
“To be honest, I didn’t realize how many of them we had done,” said Daniels, calling from Owensville, Mo. “That’s because we had done them at different times in my career to reflect different moods of the country or different incidents that happened. So now we figured we had enough for an album.”
In many ways, this compilation speaks more to who Daniels is as a person than his career-defining song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Political, with his ear always to the ground, the Grand Ole Opry member is never afraid to speak his mind.
This is true with songs such as the Iranian Hostage Crisisinspired “In America” and the farmland commentary “American Farmer.” As for “Iraq Blues,” he describes it as something personal to current Iraq war veterans who return home from overseas. One song that Daniels felt he would be remiss not including on “Land That I Love” was his 1990 single “(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks.”
“That’s an old song that I did years ago,” Daniels said.
“And it was so old it has (Mikhail) Gorbachev’s name in it. I still love the song, I love what it said because I love rednecks. I was raised around rednecks, or at least what I consider to be rednecks, which is not what a lot of people consider, like a racially prejudiced guy who goes around in a pickup truck throwing bottles out the window,’’ he said. “I’m talking about working people, the kind of people I was raised with who would go to work, take care of their families and are good Godfearing American people. I wanted to do the song, so I sat down and updated it. And people like it, we’re doing it every night now.”
Something else Daniels performs every show — including at his Monday date at the Lorain County Fair — is, naturally, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which in 1979 topped the country chart and was No. 3 on the pop music chart. The latter achievement shows just how mainstream the adept fiddler became. His notoriety still lasts today, proven by his appearance in the popular Geico insurance commercial.
So did Daniels have any idea that his tale of Johnny facing the devil would become so big?
“I had no idea,” Daniels said. “I thought it would be a good song for AOR (album-oriented rock) radio, but I had no idea it was going to be a No. 1 song. At the time I did record two versions because I knew some people wouldn’t play the ‘SOB’ version so I did a ‘son of a gun’ version, too,’’ he said. “I tell people I did a Baptist version and a Methodist version. And I won’t tell you which is which.”
At the age of 73, Daniels admits he’s slowed down a bit recently, which only means he’s playing 80 to 90 shows annually and working 10 months out of the year, taking off January and February. Furthermore, don’t bother bringing up retirement. Instead, he’s more interested in talking about his legacy. And in true Daniels’ fashion, his answer is a no frills, straight-from-the-heart affair.
“I have always felt that after people leave us they tend to get bigger than life,” Daniels said. “People who they couldn’t stand before say good things about them. And the people that said bad things about them don’t say them anymore. But my thing is I think a person needs to be remembered for what they are. No more and no less. I don’t think someone ought to be diminished in death or magnified in death.
“I think that for one thing, my music speaks for itself. As far as what I am, I’d like to be remembered as a Christian, a humanitarian, as someone who loved his fellow man and tried to get along with everybody and really, sincerely loved to entertain people.”
The Charlie Daniels Band is scheduled to perform 7:30 p.m.
Monday at the Lorain County Fairgrounds Grandstand. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.loraincountyfair.com.
Contact John Benson at firstname.lastname@example.org.