Charlie Daniels has known the guys in Alabama — the band, not the state — for a few decades now. They started playing shows together in the 1980s, while Alabama was scoring the majority of their 43 No. 1 country music hits. And even though The Charlie Daniels Band leans a lot more heavily toward Southern rock and old-school country music than Alabama’s more pop-oriented sound, Daniels says there is one thing the two groups have in common.
“Good music,” the 82-year-old singer, guitarist, fiddle player, and bandleader says. “Straight-ahead music. We’re a little more in one direction than they are, but that just means we cover a lot of ground.”
And rather than talk about his own set at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena this Friday night, where he’ll no doubt be playing hits like “Simple Man,” “Long-Haired Country Boy,” “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” and the immortal “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Daniels seems happier to talk about his buddies in one of the most successful country music acts ever.
“Alabama is one of, if not THE biggest country bands of all time,” he says. “They’ve had 43 No. 1 hits. If they played nothing all night long but their No. 1 hits, they could probably fill two shows just doing that. And when you go see a band of that status, they play songs you’ve completely forgotten about. They’ll go back and grab a hit that you forgot all about. They’ve sold so many millions of copies, it’s just an entertaining, seamless show.”
And what’s even better for Daniels is that his band and Alabama get along well, which he says is often just as important as being good musicians.
“It’s ULTRA-important,” he says. “When they put this tour together, we were all-too-happy to do it, because it’s fun. We all get along good, and if it’s good backstage, then it’s good everywhere.”
In addition to this tour with Alabama, which commemorates that band’s 50th anniversary, Daniels has recently collaborated with another longtime friend, producer James Stroud, who was behind the board for many of The Charlie Daniels Band’s biggest hits. Except this time, it’s Stroud behind the drum kit on a set of Daniels-written tunes that were released late last year under the name Beau Weevils. The album, “Songs in the Key of E,” was a longtime dream project for Stroud and Daniels.
“I’d always wanted to work with James in some capacity other than as a producer,” Daniels says. “We kept trying to come up with something, and I started writing these songs, and I thought this was the one for James to do. He’s one of the most soulful drummers in the world. He has the ability to do what I call playing on the shady side of the beat, and that’s really hard to explain unless you’re a musician. It’s holding the beat right where it is and not letting it go into up or down, just staying right there with it. It makes for a really good feeling when you’re in the studio.”
“Feeling” is an important word for Daniels when it comes to his music, especially in the recording studio.
“We didn’t try to make these songs perfect,” he says, “but they were soulful, and that’s what we were after. Nowadays everybody goes for perfection, but if you keep cutting something to get it perfect, you take all the feel out of it. To me, feel is more important than perfection. If it’s doing what I want it to do, it’s got a feeling to it, it’s soulful, it’s got bite. And that’s what we wanted to do with this record. It’s something you could play on the front porch if you were just sitting there jamming.”