Songs of the American Spirit
Charlie Waller & The Country Gentlemen
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Once upon a time, Charlie Waller and the rest of the Country Gentlemen were one of the most exciting progressive groups in bluegrass. Times change, though, and like many players who once flirted with some form of progressive bluegrass, Charlie Waller & the Country Gentlemen have returned to the traditional fold. Released in 2004, Songs of the American Spirit rallies around the flag as it reminds listeners of the sacrifice, prayer, and pride needed to maintain American values. While all of this is performed exceptionally well, and while the band does take time out to touch base with its working-class roots on "A Miner's Life," the album's conservatism is occasionally cloying and jingoistic. Songs of the American Spirit kicks off with "Fighting Side of Me," an old Merle Haggard song that denounces peaceniks and other types who criticize American war efforts, before delving into "Be Quiet When Willie Walks By," a sentimental piece about an old drunk who sold all his military medals for booze. "There's a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" is a happy review of the glories of all American wars, from Colonel Custer down — one presumes — to the present. Songs of the American Spirit's best results, however, occur when the band eschews its patriotic duty for fun ditties like "My Heart Is On the Mend" and weepers like "River of Tears." ~ Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., Rovi