Yes, John Schneider. The guy from that show. And no, I never thought I would be reviewing an album from Bo Duke either, and I’m kind of conflicted about it even as we speak—not because of what was painted on the top of a Dodge Charger in the early 80’s, or even that John Schneider is known as a bad musical performer. It’s because this guy has presented one of the weirdest musical careers of all time and in any genre. But being a sucker for country trucker songs and hearing he released an album of them, I got sucked in. And I’ve got to say ladies and gentlemen, it’s not bad at all.
If you think it’s tough to make it in the world right now because at some point in the past someone snapped a photo of you within shouting distance of the Confederate flag as prudish social media hall monitor types go scouring the internet looking for evidence to destroy anyone’s life and career, try being the dude who jumped creek beds in the General Lee for seven straight seasons on CBS while running from Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. Well, actually that was a stunt double, but don’t tell my 7-year-old self that.
But really the biggest burden on taking the music of John Schneider seriously is the strange way he’s released it. Back between 1984 and 1987 mind you, Schneider assembled four #1 hits and nine straight Top 10’s while signed with MCA. That was not a shabby run at all. John Schneider was a bonafide country star. But since then he’s taken large stints off, and then all of a sudden re-appeared to release huge volumes of albums in rapid succession in the most curious of manners.
For example, in 2009 Schneider released six album alone: John Schneider’s Favorite Hits Vol. 1-3, Lost Schneider Vol. 1 & 2, and a Christmas record. He pulled an even more curious move in 2018 when he released nine records total, six in a series called The Odyssey, one called Greatest Hits: Still, another different project called John Schneider’s Greatest Hits: Still, and of course, yet another Christmas record. Who’s got time to sift through all that to see if there’s something worth listening to?
But with Truck On, it’s just a basic, straight ahead country record full of cool new original songs and some covers, and it’s a lot of fun. Though it’s being sold to the public solely as a trucker record, it’s really only the first three songs that follow that theme exclusively. But what it also comprises is the soundtrack to a movie that John Schneider wrote and directed called Stand On It! that is basically a tribute to 1977’s Smoky and the Bandit, with Schneider and his collaborators reprising major parts of the original movie theme (running beer, a runaway bride) in a refreshed concept.
I can’t vouch for the movie (trailers look pretty low budget), but Truck On was quite enjoyable cover to cover. The first song and title track takes a bit of a contemporary approach to a country trucker tune. But from there, Truck On is full tilt traditional country, with quite a few really well-written songs, and even a trucker epic in the nearly six-minute “Roy” that is part “Convoy,” and part “Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
This is just a really fun record, from the song “Haulin’ Hell and Bayou Bound” that’s both about Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard with a Jerry Reed approach, to Schneider’s cover of Jimmy Martin’s “Freeborn Man.” But it’s just great country songs like “Cowboys Don’t Get Old” written by Bryan Burns and Johnny Gates, “Drinking Buddy,” “Bottom of the 5th,” and “Comin’ To” by Andrew Pope that comprise the heart of the album with songs that in previous eras would be hits, but these days it’s left to John Schneider to showcase.
Sure, much of what comprises the appeal of Truck On is nostalgia and a dose of stylistic emulation by Schneider as opposed to more original and relevant material and expressions. But it’s fun, it’s cool, it’s country, and it’s worth listening to, unlike much of today’s “country” music. John Schneider brings a very authentic and palpable enthusiasm to this thematic record, and probably releases his best country record since his days of portraying a true modern-day Robin Hood down in Hazzard county.
1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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Proceeds from ‘Truck On’ benefit St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps over-the-road/regional semi-truck drivers and their families.
Purchase John Schneider’s Truck On