Sharp Blessed Men

Meanwhile, Rev. Dylan's old sideman/student Bro. Charlie just keeps rebuilding some jigsaw soapbox, planing and playing over all its creaks and leaks. Sometimes the spirit finds its own level, even so. Like on 1999's Road Dogs, where rapneck-grabbing powerchord purgatory finally exhales "The Martyr." This song, about Cassie Bernall, who said "Yes" when asked "Are you a Christian?" and was then killed at Columbine, could've been the most horrendous (or mere) kitsch. Instead, he imagines her last moments, quietly reminding me of a "mushroom cloud" we were shown in school (actually more like a rose, in that case). A rose in this case slightly dampened by proximity to "Wild Wild Young Men," his first whiny scolding ever.

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Sharp Dressed Men: A Tribute To ZZ Top
RCA

The Charlie Daniels Band
Redneck Fiddlin' Man
Audium/Blue Hat

The Charlie Daniels Band
The Ultimate Charlie Daniels Band
Epic/Legacy

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But not his last. Tighter than Ultimate, early 2002's Live Record's band-as-fiddle dynamics ultimately clunk into the (studio) rant "This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag" ("and we don't wear it on our heads." Actually, We do; check your current audience, CD). Less snarlin' than gnarlin', "Rag" gets drowned out by "The Last Fallen Hero" 's solitary drum on Redneck Fiddlin' Man (parade's end, but no rest). "Amen," sez the fiddler, sawing a blues out of "The Star Spangled Banner." And, on How Sweet the Sound's (2001) Elvis-brushed hymnbook, Charlie tends to send us way up yonder in a minor key. And that's alright now, Mama. It's the gospel truth.

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