published Friday, March 18th, 2011

Confederate Railroad returns

IF YOU GO

* What: Confederate Railroad with Wild Card opening.

* When: 7 p.m. today and Saturday.

* Where: The Lower Level, 4251 Bonny Oaks Drive.

* Admission: $12.

* Phone: 505-4390.

One minute, Confederate Railroad can have you two-stepping, and the next they can make you belly laugh. They can even make someone like George Jones himself cry. Whether they are performing a rocking honky-tonk number, a ballad or one of their signature funny raucous numbers, the songs are always about people and events that resonate with fans.

For more than three decades, members of the band have remained true to themselves, unapologetically turning out records that feature honky-tonk rockers, ballads and off-kilter funny songs.

“I don’t think I have any more of a clue now than I did when we started,” said founder/frontman Danny Shirley in a previous interview. “I know that if you start thinking, ‘Is radio going to like this’ ” or ‘Is this going to offend anybody?’ that it really waters things down, so I don’t try to second-guess anybody. What I do is look for songs I like — that seems to work best.”

Fans have always seemed happy with Shirley’s song selection, having purchased almost 5 million CR albums over the years. They’ve also made songs like “Queen Of Memphis,” “Trashy Women,” “Jesus And Mama” and “Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind” hit singles.

Confederate Railroad will play those songs, as well as songs from new CD “Unleashed” tonight and Saturday at The Lower Level, which is the old Governor’s Lounge, a familiar venue for the band. They are doing two nights because the one show they did there last year was a huge hit, according to Shirley.

“They asked us to play last year, and I just wasn’t sure how it would go,” he said. “We hadn’t been there in years and years, and the people who used to come are older and moved on. They sold all the seats and about 150 standing-room only tickets and turned away 300 people.”

He said playing there was a lot of fun.

“The thought of it was weird, but once I hit the stage, it was like a giant 25-year step back in time. It was the same people, and they acted the same way when they got drunk,” he said with a laugh.

“I walked onstage at 10 [p.m.] and walked off at 1 [a.m.]. I had to make myself quit.”

The new CD features guest performances by David Allan Coe and George Jones. Jones is a longtime friend of Shirley’s and told him years ago that the watching the video for “When You Leave That Way” made him cry.

Shirley, who lives up the road in McDonald, Tenn., said he’s spending more of his time these days writing music.

“It’s better writing, too,” he said. “I never really pitched my stuff to other people before, but I have some stuff now, and I want to write for other artists.”

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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