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Charlie Daniels: 10 Definitive Songs

From the PTSD narrative “Still in Saigon” and the jammy “Sweet Louisiana” to the unforgettable “Devil Went Down to Georgia”

Over his Country Music Hall of Fame career, Charlie Daniels sang about soldiers, hippies, and a gambling devil.

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Charlie Daniels may be synonymous with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” arguably one of the earliest examples of country-rap, but his catalog was defined by more than sing-speak recitations and fiddle fire. He dabbled in the jam-band side of Southern rock, experimented with polished Eighties anthems, and notably carried a torch for classic country music — especially its storytelling. The Country Music Hall of Fame member died July 6th at 83, leaving behind songs that, while sonically diverse, were all united by the expert musician’s love of playing.

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“Sweet Louisiana” (1976)

Of all the songs in the Charlie Daniels canon, few evoke the jam-band side of Southern rock quite like this track off 1976’s Saddle Tramp. A Daniels solo composition, “Sweet Louisiana” pairs some slippery slide guitar with CDB keyboardist Taz DiGregorio’s barroom piano for a euphoric result. The live version off 1978’s Volunteer Jam III & IV concert album is even more freewheeling, with Daniels and Tommy Crain’s twin guitar leads bringing the jam vibes to a satisfying head. J.H.

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“Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” (1985)

An outlier in a catalog more often associated with good-ole-white-boy anthems and Southern gothic story-songs, this 1985 Top 10 country hit is a dancing-all-over-your-troubles rave-up. It launches with an electric guitar part that, uh, tinkers with the one in Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose,” but Daniels quickly commandeers the lick for himself. The hurtling rhythm is roots-rock like something Dave Edmunds might race through, and Daniels charges at his lines like he’s channeling Jerry Lee Lewis: “Pour me another one/I’m finished with the other one!” But it’s Daniels’ delirious fiddle that moves the crowd and tips you off that this drinking cure might just work. D.C.