On the eve of their 82nd birthday, most people are content to take it easy and rest on their laurels. That’s not Charlie Daniels. The Grammy-winning icon turns 82 on Oct. 28 and is releasing his new studio album Friday (Oct. 26) Beau Weevils — Songs in the Key of E. Plus, he’s gearing up for the Nov. 6 release of his new book, Let’s All Make the Day Count: The Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels.
“It’s not a dressed up record. It’s not got a lot of electronics or overdubbing. It’s pretty much straight ahead. It’s just four people playing music,” Daniels tells Billboard of the album, which features fiddle by Daniels, James Stroud on drums and percussion, Billy Crain on guitar and Charlie Hayward on bass.
“I like this album a lot,” the Country Music Hall of Famer admits. “When I get through with an album, I just usually don’t listen to it a lot. I go on to something else. I keep pulling this one out. It’s a fun album and puts me in a good mood, so I listen to it quite a bit.”
Daniels, Stroud, Crain and Hayward will perform together Oct. 30 in Nashville during a special album launch event at Winners Bar & Grill. “It’s different. I don’t think I’ve ever done an album quite like this,” Daniels says. “The whole approach to this album was so simple. It was just, ‘Go play some music!’ I was talking to James and said, ‘I hate fade endings [on songs].’ I haven’t done very many in my life, and I said, ‘Let’s don’t have any fade endings on this record. Let’s just end them all.’ And all the songs are in the same key, which is a highly unusual thing, but they all lent themselves to be done in the same key, so it’s very organic.”
Daniels and Stroud had wanted to work together again for a long time. Beau Weevils fulfills that wish. Stroud had produced some of the Charlie Daniels Band’s projects in the past, but Daniels had wanted to do more. “If there’s ever been a soulful drummer, James Stroud is it. His drumming set the feel of this whole thing,” Daniels says of the 10-song set that features eight new songs. “He’s a swampy kind of player. I call it playing on the shady side of the beat, which if you’re not a musician it’s hard to understand, but it’s never rushing a beat of a song. You lock on to a beat, set the tempo and the feel and you stay with it. You are right on top of it all the time. James is able to create that kind of atmosphere and plus the fact that he’s a great record producer. He co-produced this album and he’s a joy to work with in the studio.”
The project also includes Billy Crain, whose late brother Tommy played for years with the Charlie Daniels Band, and Hayward, a longtime CDB member. “Charlie Hayward has been my bass player for 42 years, so you know what I think of him,” Daniels says with a grin. “Billy Crain is the best slide guitar player that I know of today. That kid is so good. Tommy was that way. I’ve been on stage with Tommy and he’d play stuff I don’t think anybody could do. It’s almost like his fingers had a mind of their own. They’d just go places. He was a wonderful musician and Billy is that same way. He’s a great player.”
Beau Weevils isn’t the only new Daniels’ music in the marketplace. Volunteer Jam XX: A Tribute to Charlie Daniels came out in August and features Daniels on such classics as “Tennessee Fiddlin’ Man” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” as well as special guests Chris Young, Travis Tritt, Sara Evans, Billy Gibbons, the Oak Ridge Boys and others on the two-CD set. There is also a companion CD releasing in conjunction with Daniels’ new book Let’s All Make the Day Count: The Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels, being published Nov. 6 by Thomas Nelson, a division of Harper Collins. The 10-song CD, also titled Let’s All Make the Day Count, includes such Daniels’ classics as “In America,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and his powerful rendition of the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
The new book follows on the heels of Daniels’ best-selling memoir Never Look at the Empty Seats, which released last year. His latest literary effort is a blend of scripture with personal observations and anecdotes served up in Daniels’ warm, folksy style. “The title is Let’s All Make The Day Count and I think that’s a very important thing,” says the energetic octogenarian, who is already working on another book. “We’re only allotted so many days and we don’t know which one is going to be the last one or how many we’ve got left. I don’t want to waste even one day. We’ve got enough days where we’re sick or tired or something and can’t function the way we want to, but to waste a day arguing with somebody or holding grudges or anything like that is a total waste. I’ve lived this stuff. This is not just something I’m writing. I’ve lived it. I want people to realize how valuable their lives are. Each day is a total blessing from God and to waste a day is a day gone. You can never ever get it back. Every day is a gift, so make the day count.”
So how does Daniels plan to spend his 82nd birthday? “I’m going to stay home and have dinner with my son and wife,” he says. “I don’t make big deals out of birthdays anymore. It’s like, ‘Hey I’m another year older. Okay, let’s forget it and get on with the next year now.'”