In 1959 Speedway Records was founded by Ned Jarrett. The labels first single was Go or Blow by the Revs. "Thunder Road" marks the label's first release in the new millennium and they've recruited two of the biggest living legends of southern rock, the CDB and MTB, to kick it off. It debuted Memorial Day Weekend at the Cola-Cola 600 in Charlotte, NC.
Charlie and his band earned the pole position and put the pedal to the metal from the get-go. Thundering guitars and pounding drums jump-start High Speed Heroes, a tribute to the family, friends and fans of Dale Earnhardt, as well as the man himself. The song is vintage Charlie and would be a stellar cut on any CDB release. The cut gives listeners a history lesson about Dale's roots and his emergence as a racing legend. I think the measure of a good song is by how loud you turn it up after the first few notes... about two seconds into the song I cranked my CD player up as loud as it could go - and it was so good I played it again right away! I swear I could feel the race cars shaking my bones to the core.
The CDB's second contribution is an homage to moonshine runners and their supped-up cars. It's a fast country shuffle that will have your toes tapping and your hands slapping the the dash board... and thirsting for some good ol' moonshine!
Tralena, a singer-songwriter who hails from Richmond, VA, is featured on the next two tracks. Both are slow country numbers which highlight her earthy vocals, which remind me of a cross between Lacy J. Dalton and Jane Fricke. The Last Red Dirt Racer is another great tribute to "Ralph Earnhardt's son". For people that may not know much about Dale, this provides more background about his humble beginnings. Drivin' By a Dream was co-written by NASCAR legend Humpy Wheeler and provides the listener a glimpse inside the mind and heart of the men and women who give their lives for something that others don't quite understand. Racing fans will appreciate both these classic songs.
The next two tunes are live performances delivered by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. They're a reminder of the feel good music the band delivered so consistently in the 70's - and evidence that the boys from Doraville still haven't lost any of their prowess today (and for anyone who hasn't heard their 1999 release "Eufaula" you're missing out!). Champagne Jam has been re-worked as NASCAR Jam and Large Time is dedicated to "all those drivers that risk their lives to entertain us every weekend and all the fans that come to cheer them on to victory." Both are vintage ARS.
Tim Wilson delivers two funny tunes titled Bondo Jones, an ode to a destruction Derby legend, and Dale Darryl Waltrip Richard Petty Rusty Awesome Bill Irvan Gordon Earnhardt Smith Johnson, Jr. The man is a singing version of Jeff Foxworthy. He's recorded five CDs - but this was the first time I'd heard him. Why he's not as popular as other comedians is a shame. Hopefully this will provide him with the exposure he deserves. He's a great talent.
The good time country-rockers Kentucky Headhunters offer Chopped & Cherried Out and Get To Heaven. I don't think it's possible for these guys to not deliver a good tune - and a good time. Slide guitar and a rock and roll back-beat set the tempo for Cherried Out while Bill Haley/Chuck Berry riffs are the highlight of the optimistic message of Heaven.
The CD closes out with something old and something new from the Marshall Tucker Band. Long Hard Ride, the 1976 Grammy nominated instrumental, has been re-recorded for "Thunder Road". They stay true to the original version - and that's good news for two reasons. First, it was a great song to begin with. Second, it shows that while lead singer Doug Gray is the only original founding member, the rest of the band delivers vintage MTB music in the fashion that fans would expect.
The last song on the disc is sung by the newest member of MTB, Doug's twenty-three year old nephew Clay Cook. For fans who have heard him sing Take the Highway and Ramblin' in concert, you will hear a different side to Clay. Drive On is sung in a totally different key and it's hard to believe the man that sings these subdued, poignant notes can also deliver the high-octane vocals for the previously mentioned Tucker classics. Rusty Milner's soaring guitar accentuates the bitter-sweet lyrics, the CDs final tribute to Dale Earnhardt. It would make a great single and I know that fans of Dale are sure to hold it dear to their hearts.
Thunder Road should please racing fans all across the country. It's the perfect soundtrack for a day at the speedway. The artists capture all the things that make the sport great, while at the same time remembering a fallen hero. Anyone who loves racing or loved Dale Earnhardt are sure to be touched.
- Craig Cumberland
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