Though he recently celebrated his 65th birthday, Charlie Daniels shows no sign of slowing down. Combining staunch patriotism, unwavering faith, and Southern rock swagger, Daniels continues to keep audiences happy with new projects in both the country and Christian markets.
Daniels places his unique musical stamp on a collection of classic hymns with the forthcoming Sparrow release, “How Sweet the Sound — 25 Favorite Hymns & Gospel Greats.” The project bows via a TV campaign the week of Dec. 11 and will be released to retail Jan. 29, 2002. EMI Christian Music Group’s Chordant Distribution will work the album to the Christian retail market, with EMD handling general market distribution.
“How Sweet the Sound” is one of many recent projects for Daniels and his famed group, the Charlie Daniels Band. The patriotic anthem “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag” is No. 38 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, while “The Live Record,” the first venture between Daniels’ Blue Hat label and Audium Records, is at No. 50 this issue on the Top Country Albums chart. He also contributed “Bull Ridin’ Son of a Gun” to “Dancin’ With Thunder,” a multi-artist project issued via a partnership between Epic Records and Professional Bull Riders Inc.
“We did so many different projects this year with the bull-riding project, our live project, the single-all that stuff. I can’t remember when we did what,” says Daniels, who is currently off the road recuperating from successful surgery for prostate cancer. “I just thank God I can make a living doing something I enjoy so much. It’s wonderful.”
“How Sweet the Sound” marks Daniels’ third outing for Sparrow Records, an EMI-owned Christian label based outside Nashville. His Sparrow debut, “The Door,” won the Gospel Music Assn. Dove Award for country album of the year in 1995, and the single, “Somebody Was Praying for Me,” was named country song of the year.
For his new Sparrow project, Daniels delivers a 25-song, two-CD collection of mostly hymns, including such favorites as “How Great Thou Art,” “Softly and Tenderly,” “Power in the Blood,” and a rousing version of “Amazing Grace.” “I didn’t want to do it in a churchy way,” Daniels admits, “not that I didn’t love it that way, because that’s the way I’ve learned each song, but I wanted to do it like CDB [Charlie Daniels Band] would do it. We don’t do the rest of our music like anybody else. I don’t know why we should do our Christian music that way.”
Daniels puts a new spin on these well-worn classics and credits his band and co-producer Patrick Kelly with shedding new light on old favorites. “I’ve got probably one of the best bands I’ve ever had,” he says. “I have three of the old guys with me, but I also have a couple of new kids that have brought a lot of nice new energy to the band and some fresh approaches. We are doing something a little bit different than what we had always done. It makes a difference. It’s a great thing to sit down in the studio-or anywhere else, for that matter-and play with this band. It’s a lot of fun.”
There’s a fiery rendition of “I Saw the Light,” which, Daniels says, is the “bluegrass in me coming out.” There’s a bluesy version of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Daniels also reprises the Dove-winning “Somebody Was Praying for Me” alongside such gospel chestnuts as “Old Rugged Cross,” “Peace in the Valley,” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
“This was not a new-found desire for me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” says Daniels, a BMI-affiliated writer with his own publishing company, CDB Music. “They don’t play the old songs anymore. These old hymns, to me, just mean so much. I feel like they deserve to be heard and heard and heard. They are just great music . . . All my gospel music means much more to me than just cutting a record. I’m a Christian; that’s the difference.”
After Daniels recorded the album, his longtime manager, David Corlew, played it for executives at Sparrow, who jumped at the chance to release it. According to Denise George, senior director of artist development for Sparrow Label Group, there will be a twofold campaign.
“This starts first on television through Castalian Music, who we are thrilled to partner with,” George says of the company. “It will be a national cable rollout with TNN and major cable networks. There will also be regional/local market promotions.”
Sparrow has had success in the past taking gospel packages to TV, with projects by Anne Murray and Andy Griffith both big sellers. “It’s always wonderful to work hand in hand with a television campaign because it’s added awareness,” George says. “We’ve seen in the past [that] a great television campaign leads to great retail sales.”
George expects Daniels’ project to be another strong seller. The set will be promoted via a two-minute spot and sold on TV and at retail for $21.98. As an added incentive, TV buyers will also get a copy of “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag” as a premium (the single won’t be included on the retail package, but it is being included on new pressings of “The Live Record”).
George acknowledges Daniels is enjoying tremendous visibility right now and says they will partner with Audium to maximize exposure for all of his products. “We want to build on the country radio success,” she says. To that end, they are working with Ron Huntsman of Nashville-based Huntsman Entertainment to produce a radio special.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Daniels plans to hit the road again in March 2002. He’ll also be back in the studio working on a project he says “will be different than anything we’ve ever done. It’s going to be very cutting-edge.”