Few acts have
carved as distinctive a niche in modern musical history as
Confederate Railroad. With their high-energy combination of
honky-tonk rockers, sensitive ballads, and offbeat humor, they
have created a unique identity that has brought them chart
success, multi-platinum sales, and continued popularity as a
road band. Versatility, likability, and a willingness to stretch
boundaries are all part of the mix, but if there is a formula,
not even they can put their finger on it.
think I have any more of a clue now than I did when we
started," laughs founder/frontman Danny Shirley. "I
know that if you start thinking, 'Is radio going to like
this"' or 'Is this going to offend anybody?' that it really
waters things down, so I don't try to second-guess anybody. What
I do is look for songs I like--that seems to work best."
million albums later, there is no doubt that it works. Songs
like "Queen Of Memphis," "Trashy Women,"
"Jesus And Mama," and "Daddy Never Was The
Cadillac Kind" became major hits and established
Confederate Railroad as a key part of country music's landscape
during the genre's expansion of the '90s. The accolades kicked
off with the Academy of Country Music's Best New Group award in
1993 and have included a Grammy nomination, and a host of
nominations from the Country Music Association and the British
Country Music Foundation.
For guys who
started as a Georgia bar band, it was the stuff of dreams.
"I remember saying when we got our first platinum
album," says Shirley, "'At this point, our success has
pretty much surpassed our talent, and from this point on,
everything else is just icing on the cake.'" The latest
swirl of icing is the band's new Audium Records CD, Unleashed, a
microcosm of everything Shirley and company do best. There is
sensitivity, hard-driving honky-tonk, and a generous dose of
pure fun, not to mention good-natured new assaults on decorum
and political correctness. The rollicking "I'm Diggin'
It," as well as "White Trash With Money" and
"That 'R' Word" have attitude to spare, and show that
time has not dulled the edge of the band's skewed and witty
worldview. Likewise, "That's What Brothers Do,"
"Wasted Time," and "Between The Rainbows And The
Rain" show the band's flip side, its ability to capture
life's poignant and tender moments. "Body Like A
Temple," a duet with country legend and longtime friend
George Jones, brims with honky-tonk fire, and "Still One
Outlaw Left," finds the band and David Allan Coe, who share
a great deal of road history, teaming up for the first time on
record. "Borrowed Time" show's the band's way with a
pure Southern rocker, and "Thick As Thieves"
celebrates the camaraderie that has marked CRR's long road
Jones and Coe
continue a CRR tradition involving guest artists. Steve Earle
and Charlie Daniels are among those who have sung on the band's
earlier projects, and this time, songwriters have joined the
chorus. Bob DiPiero and Craig Wiseman sing backup on their
"Diggin' It," Anthony Smith on his "What Brothers
Do," and newly signed Mercury Records artist James Allen
Otto on "Borrowed Time."
This album also
showcases Shirley's writing skills. He is a co-writer on
"White Trash With Money" and "Wasted Time,"
both based on real-life events. Confederate Railroad's current
line-up includes, along with vocalist/guitarist Shirley, Mark
DuFresne on drums, Wayne Secrest on bass, Gates Nichols on steel
guitar and vocals, Jimmy Dormire on lead guitar, and Cody
McCarver on keyboards and vocals. The quintet's love of the
give-and-take of live performance is such that they still
perform a hundred dates a year, and their legions of fans are as
appreciative as ever.