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Members include Mark Dufresne, drums; Michael Lamb, lead guitar;Chris McDaniel, keyboards; Gates Nichols, steel guitar; WayneSecrest, bass; Danny Shirley, (born August 12, 1956, in Chattanooga, TN),lead vocals, guitar. Addresses: Record company-Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019; Fanclub-Confederate Railroad Fan Club, P.O. Box 128185, Nashville, TN 37212-8185.
After a decade of playing in local saloons and honky-tonk bars, Georgia's Confederate Railroad achieved nationalsuccess with their self-titled debut album released in 1992, largely on the basis of their somewhat controversial hit"Trashy Women." Although the band's overall image was another incarnation of the rowdy, Southern-boy spirit definedby acts like Hank Williams, Jr. and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Confederate Railroad soon found themselves popular amongmainstream audiences, and even with demographic groups not stereotypically associated with country, such asEuropeans and gays. In the meantime, the band released several follow-up albums that met consistently with mixedreviews.
Although Confederate Railroad did not assume their present name until the late 1980s, most of the band's sixmembers began their working relationship in 1982, as country singer David Allan Coe's touring musicians. However,under the leadership of the boisterous singer/songwriter Danny Shirley, the future members of Confederate Railroadbecame the house performers at Miss Kitty's, a country bar in Marietta, Georgia. Embracing a rollicking, tongue-in-cheek style of rock-tinged country, Shirley and his cohorts established a strong local reputation. After their commercialbreakthrough, energetic live shows continued to contribute to Confederate Railroad's popularity.
As a solo artist, Shirley had already released several records on the small Armor label, with whom he signed in1984, but met with only minor successes, such as his debut "Love and Let Love". Upon the full realization ofConfederate Railroad in 1987, however, the group sent a demo tape to executive Rick Blackburn at Atlantic Records'Nashville office signed with the label in 1991. Blackburn had hoped that the bands' demeanor, which suggested bothgood-natured fun and bar-room brawls at the same time, would be as successful nationally as it had been as Miss Kitty's.
The "band" released their debut album, Confederate Railroad, in 1992. The record was for all intents and purposesanother Shirley solo album and featured none of Confederate Railroad's other members. In any case, the albumproduced a number of singles which scored heavily on the country charts, with the song "Jesus and Mama" hittingnumber five. However, it was "Trashy Women," the flip-side to the single "That Way You Can Never Go Back" thatgave Confederate Railroad buzz outside the country charts, as well as some amount of notoriety.
"Trashy Women" was attacked by some both for its portrayal of women and its artistic merits, and in the processcreated a mild controversy. While critics like the Village Voice's Eric Weisbard called the song "the sort of beer andbabe anthem even heavy metal has gotten too sophisticated for," others were offended by its portrayal of big-haired,heavily made-up females. In general, however, the public took the song with a grain of salt, such as Houston, Texasdisc jockey Dene Hallam. "I listened to it and found out that it wasn't a derogatory song," Hallam told Billboard. "Itwas just describing a (country singer) Dolly Parton type, just like a type of man or whatever. I believe even Dollyherself would describe herself as a trashy woman, and she's one of the classiest, most intelligent ladies in the business."
What little furor "Trashy Women" occasioned quickly passed and the song was released as a single in 1993, whichoutsold the record that had originally spawned it. A solid hit on the country charts, "Trashy Women" was also popularwith those who rarely ventured beyond mainstream pop and was even reissued as a dance remix. In addition, the song'svideo, which featured the burly members of Confederate Railroad in drag, also warmed over audiences with the group's tongue-in-cheek attitude. Largely on the commercial pull of "Trashy Women," as well as the hit "Queen of Memphis,"the band's debut had sold over a million copies by the end of the year.
The following year, Confederate Railroad demonstrated to some that they were more than more than a silly bar bandwith the release of their second album, Notorious, a collection of songs Entertainment Weekly's Alanna Nashcharacterized as "Dixie-fried satire and dead-serious takes on life and love." Indeed, the band's diversity of styles hadoften made casual listeners believe that Confederate Railroad's multiple hits were actually the work of as many differentgroups. In addition to "Elvis and Andy," a humorous song about a Southern woman's love for legendary singer ElvisPresley and television actor Andy Griffith, the album is highlighted by the title cut, a dark, moody piece. Still, othercritics found even Confederate Railroad's straight-faced songs to be laughable, but such response did not preventNotorious from going gold only weeks after its release.
The band proved to audiences outside of Georgia that their live presence was as engaging as their records, and aftera successful European tour, Confederate Railroad returned to the studio. The result was their 1995 album When andWhere, which provoked yet another split decision from music press. On the one hand, Entertainment Weekly was fullywon over by the spirit Confederate Railroad brought to their music. "Though it could have been another play-by-numbers outing, Shirley's redneck bark and some strong songwriting add soul. This Railroad is one of the year'sclassier models."
Conversely, other critics like Alanna Nash, writing in Stereo Review, found When and Where to show the group'slimitations. "The love songs aren't memorable, and apart from a wry line or two in "Bill's Laundromat, Bar, and Grill,"the songs aren't funny, running along the sappy, family-values of "Sounds of Home." Although Nash had earlierdefended Notorious, she went on to say that "Confederate Railroad appears to be a one-shot wonder, a band whose timehas come and gone." Such claims seemed unwarranted, given the amount of hits Confederate Railroad had scored onthe country charts. While When and Where did not sell as well as the group's earlier efforts, it did receive severalnominations at the 1995 British Country Music Awards ceremony.
Perhaps to further rebut claims of being a one-hit wonder, Confederate Railroad issued a seemingly prematureGreatest Hits collection in 1997, which showcased the group's ballads as well as its more celebrated comedic tunes like"Trashy Women." In addition to previously recorded material, Greatest Hits also slipped in two new compositions. "I'mvery happy with the way this album flows," Shirley stated on a Confederate Railroad website. "The two new ones arekind of light-hearted, but middle of the road like 'Queen of Memphis.' So it's got the ballads we've had luck with anda couple of off-the wall tunes'... it's balanced out real nice." After the compilation release, Confederate Railroadcontinued to offer their robust live shows and planned their next contribution to the growth of contemporary country.
by Shaun Frentner
Confederate Railroad's Career
Band formed in 1982 in Marietta, Georgia as a backup band for David Allan Coe; became Confederate Railroadin 1987; signed to Atlantic/Nashville in 1991 and released their self titled debut the following year; released sophomorealbum, Notorious, 1994; made European live debut, 1994; released When and Where, nominated for three BritishCountry Music Awards, 1995; released Greatest Hits, 1997.
Confederate Railroad's Awards
Best New Vocal Group award from the Academy of Country Music, 1993.
- Selected discography
- Confederate Railroad , Atlantic/Nashville, 1992.
- Notorious , Atlantic/Nashville, 1994.
- When and Where , Atlantic/Nashville, 1995.
- Greatest Hits , Atlantic/Nashville, 1997.
- Billboard , April 18, 1992; October 23, 1993; November 13, 1993.
- Entertainment Weekly , March 11, 1994; June 30, 1995.
- Stereo Review , October 1995.
- Village Voice , May 3, 1994.
- "The big Butler Fair Presents: Confederate Railroad," http://www.butlercountry.com/Big (June 16, 1998).
Confederate Railroad Lyrics
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