The fondest memories of my more formative years included the Friday night ritual of New York-style pizza and The Dukes of Hazzard. There was nothing better than topping off another awkward week of the sixth grade with an evening of pure southern-fried bliss. Of course, I was 11. What else was I going to do?
But even as devoted a fan of the show, The Dukes of Hazzard: Original TV Soundtrack somehow slipped past me. In fact, I’d never heard of it until earlier this year. Originally released in late 1981, this “soundtrack” of a television classic is being re-released by RCA/Legacy, this time with two bonus tracks. And who can blame them for re-releasing it? The original show has become a wildly popular cable television staple and a hot selling DVD series. And the new movie of the same name hasn’t hurt interest either.
But to be clear, this is no soundtrack. It’s a concept album, really. You’ve no doubt heard Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or even The Who’s Tommy. Well, this is exactly the same thing…or not. It’s actually a collection of songs performed by the show’s cast members, three country music legends and Doug Kershaw. And it’s all tied together by short vignettes narrated by both Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane to create a flimsy, yet somewhat plausible storyline.
The highlight of this album for me is “Flash,” Roscoe’s ode to his slow moving Bassett Hound. James Best does an admirable job singing in character and dishing out all his signature catch-phrases. And it’s easily as good as most Ray Stevens songs. (Yes, I realize dads all over the world are dog cussing me right now for saying that.)
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Duke boys album without a song or two by Bo Duke himself, John Schneider. And Bo doesn’t disappoint. He really has a great singing voice and it’s showcased here on two tracks: “In the Driver’s Seat” and “Them Good Old Boys are Bad.” And not to be outdone by Bo, Tom Wopat makes an appearance with one of the most recognizable, and worst, performances I’ve ever heard of The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek.” I know that Tom is an accomplished singer and veteran of the Broadway stage, but everybody makes bad decisions sometimes. Maybe “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” would have been a better choice?
The most bizarre song on this collection is Catherine Bach’s “Down Home American Girl.” While there’s nothing particularly unusual about the song itself, the delivery is shocking. Quite simply, Bach looks nothing like she sounds. Just take a listen and you’ll understand. She reminds me of Sixpence None the Richer’s Leigh Nash, who I greatly admire as a singer.
Three-fourths of the country music supergroup “The Highwaymen” receive performance credits for this set. First off, Waylon Jennings, as you may remember, provides the show’s theme song “Good ol’ Boys.” And thankfully, this new release contains the original recording used in the show, in addition to the embarrassingly over-produced and Jennings-less version included in the original release. Johnny Cash chips in with “The General Lee,” a catchy tribute to the orange ’69 Dodge Charger. Finally, Willie Nelson joins Waylon with “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys” from the 1978 co-op Waylon and Willie, which proves once again that cross-marketing is alive and well. (Willie plays Uncle Jesse in The Dukes of Hazzard film, which is coincidentally being released at about the same time as this CD.)
So you see, this CD has something for everybody…who loves The Dukes of Hazzard. And what’s not to love? I can’t get that dang “Flash” song out of my head! I know this CD is nowhere near perfect, but the nostalgic value of the songs performed in character and the inclusion of the original “Good Ol’ Boys” recording make it a winner to me.