Showing posts with label Craig Gerdes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Craig Gerdes. Show all posts

Dec 9, 2020

Exclusive Song Premiere / Craig Gerdes / "You're Not in the Picture Anymore"

Photo by Al Steinz

Got a killer song premiere today, if you're in the mood for a stone-cold country heartbreaker. Craig Gerdes brings us this gut-punch of a sad song replete with steel guitar and fiddle. "You're Not in the Picture Anymore" also sports one of those memorable 90s-style hooks that'll grab you right away. This will have you hankering for a smoky barroom with scuffed wood floors and a barely working jukebox in no time at all. 

Here's what Craig had to say about the song:
After the release of our Smokin, Drinkin & Gamblin album in 2018, I had several people reach out to me wanting more of those "hurtin'” country songs. So I went back through all this material I'd written but never recorded, and that's when I came across "You're Not in the Picture Anymore."

I thought it fit the mood they were looking for, so I reached out to my old friend Jim Vest to produce it. You’ll might remember Jim playing pedal steel on all of those classic Johnny Paycheck and Vern Gosdin hits, and he also played on most of my Smokin, Drinkin & Gamblin album, which includes our remake of the 1977 hit “Slide off of Your Satin Sheets.”

When you hear the crying pedal-steel intro and the opening line, “It's over,” you’re not quite sure what’s over, but you know it’s probably not going to be good. 

I hope this one takes you where you need to go, when you need to be hit in all those hurtin' places."

More info about Craig and his most recent album below the song player.

You can pre-save "You're Not in the Picture Anymore" here:

Craig Gerdes - Tough As Nails

Steeped in the white lines, black tar and diesel smoke of the American highway, Tough As Nails—the latest LP from Craig Gerdes—is raw and real, a document of a road-tested band fast on the rise. Ever since the central-Illinois songwriter released his lauded 2018 debut LP, Smokin’ Drinkin’ & Gamblin’, he’s been on tour almost constantly, playing upwards of 150 shows per year, including opening slots and festival support for top country and Americana artists from Tyler Childers and Paul Cauthen to Jamey Johnson and Cody Jinks, as well as a lengthy run with hard-rocker-turned-country-star Aaron Lewis.

“There’s definitely a lot of the road in this record,” says Gerdes, who travels with his band and his wife Janel in the van. “I love moving—that part of traveling where you’re actually rolling down the highway. It’s when we feel most at home. Things are just different—your sleep patterns and your mindset change. But the thing I love the most about being on the road is meeting different forms and facets of people—talking with them and hearing their stories about where they come from and what they do. I find that intriguing. So there’s a lot of that in this record, too. The title track and the album, when you boil ‘em down—that’s what it’s about. We wanted to speak to the people.”

For Tough As Nails, Gerdes and his road band—lead guitarist Jake Baxter, bassist Britton Wood and drummer Randy Noy—hit St. Louis’ Native Sound Studio revved up and ready to go, with producer/engineer David Beeman at the helm. Beeman had also worked with Gerdes on 2019 single “Tailgate n’ Tallboys,” a theme song commissioned by the festival of the same name, a six-day, 30+ band country concert, held annually in Peoria, Ill. “Tough as Nails was the first time that I was able to be like, ‘Alright, boys, we’re pulling off the highway and going into the studio for a week,’” Gerdes says. “Capturing the energy of our live performances was crucial to me. So we just went in fresh off the road and banged out the meat and potatoes of it in three days.”

The resulting LP—spruced up by Robby “Man of Steel” Turner on steel guitar—reeks of spilled Jack Daniels, truckstops, pool halls and tobacco-stained green rooms. Its second track, a hi-octane, four-on-the-floor cover of Roger Alan Wade’s “If Guitars Were Guns,” acts as a manifesto for Tough As Nails, a record that packs more grit and wallop than most of its country contemporaries: “I play country music in my little cabin home in the hood, I play rock & roll because it makes me feel good / I play them ol’ blues to take a load off my mind, I play what I please, out of tune and out of time.”

As with any artist worth his salt, Gerdes’ sound has been evolving since the last record. Smokin’ Drinkin’ and Gamblin’—anchored by Nashville pedal-steel icon Jim Vest—was deeply indebted to the ’70s country on which Gerdes was raised. But with Tough as Nails, he and his band just “let it all go.” “We approached it like we would a live performance,” Gerdes says. “I didn’t put no reins on it or nothing like that. I just let it evolve into what it became. It’s a mixture of all my different influences. With country music, the way I see it, it’s a melting pot: rock & roll, Southern rock, rockabilly, the blues—it all goes in there.”

The new album’s rock & roll leanings make sense when you consider the influences of the lineup that has solidified as Gerdes’ backing band. Baxter, now in his 20s, has been playing guitar with Gerdes since he was a 16-year-old worshipping at the altar of Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Duane Allman. And it’s a similar story with drummer Randy Noy. “Ottawa, Ill., the part of the state Randy’s from, is pretty blue collar, pretty rock & roll,” Gerdes says. “He didn’t really know much about country music when he joined the band. His biggest influence is John Bonham, which is cool because I always wanted that kick, that drive to my sound. When we started playing together, I was like, ‘Don’t hold back just because you think we’re playing country. Play them drums like they owe you money, brother.’ We were able to capture that kind of energy on the new record.”

Sit with him for five minutes and you’ll know that Gerdes is a natural-born storyteller. Really, Tough as Nails is a documentary in album form. It deals with real people, real places and real struggles, collected along the Interstate as Gerdes and his band play an endless parade of one-night stands. The record is about family, community, honesty, tragedy, travel, the fleeting nature of existence, even silent visitations from the ghosts of our loved ones. Above all, though, Tough as Nails confronts the elusiveness of the American Dream in the 21st century, giving voice to the plight of the working poor, brought to life by an ex-steel worker from Pennsylvania, an out-of-work coal miner from Alabama, a suicidal veteran wrestling with PTSD in rural Ohio, and a teenage girl from god knows where trying to shake herself free from the grip of heroin. Track after track, it’s a testament to fighting for your ideals, taking your blows and doing your damnedest to press on in the face of adversity.


“All the stories in these songs are true,” Gerdes says. “It’s about the people. I wanted the album to speak directly to them, to things they’ve gone through. In my mindset, country music has got to be real.”

Two years ago, with this same spirit of authenticity and connection in mind, Gerdes launched a weekly, hour-long Facebook live series called The Gatherin’. “Janel had the idea that we could reach people who couldn’t make it to my shows,” he says. “We do it every Tuesday night—either from the road, or at home in my garage, interacting with people as we go. I play songs, they make requests, but most importantly, there’s a back and forth. We talk about what’s going on in their lives. And we try to help in any way we can.” 

Gerdes refers to the people who tune in regularly not as fans, but kinfolk. Many of them have started to identify as “The Gatherin’ Family.” Through this community, lasting friendships have been made, with Gerdes and Janel, the band members, and with each other. “Life can be tough and we all need each other,” Gerdes says. “Music is a great vehicle for that. If that’s a way we can bring people together, that’s what we’re gonna do—make a difference in their lives through the music, and bring them together around a common passion. And the more they’re together, the more they find out just how much they have in common.”

Craig Gerdes’ Tough as Nails was released April 24, 2020.

Craig's social media accounts:

Nov 17, 2017

Song Premiere: Craig Gerdes "Redneck Sonsabitches"

Photo by Al Steinz
Here's a brand new song from honky-tonker Craig Gerdes. It's a rowdy, plain-spoken tale about struggling against the country machine on Music Row. A very outlaw point of view that fits in perfectly with other anti-Nashville anthems like Shooter Jennings' "Outlaw You" and Dale Watson's "Nashville Rash."  RIYL: Dale Watson, Dallas Moore, Billy Joe Shaver.

Gerdes' forthcoming record, Smokin', Drinkin' & Gamblin' (out February 16) features pedal steel and production work from Jim Vest (Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, David Allan Coe), as well as steel from Robby Turner (Waylon Jennings, Chris Stapleton). Gerdes has also recently collaborated with Jeff Tweel (Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers), and has shared bills with country legend Billy Joe Shaver.

Smokin' Drinkin' & Gamblin' is full of outlaw-country rug cutters and ballads about strong heads and weak hearts. Fueled by nostalgia, Gerdes' songwriting talent turns old habits into dependable crutches, nursing the phantom pain of distant love. The nine-track album is full old-school four-to-the-floor honky tonk that calls to mind country legends like George Strait, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson.

New single “Red Neck Sonsabitches” is a chicken pickin’, honky-tonkin’ country song detailing Gerdes’ experience as a working musician in Nashville before deciding to buck the system and go his own way, back into the rural landscape of central Illinois. Bright, twangy production and a brash, anti-Nashville attitude give this song a timeless outlaw country feel that recalls the genre legends of the 1970s.

More information about Craig below the song player!


Craig Gerdes is a singer whose voice is steadied by the legion of angels he believes watch over him. He tells stories at a Southern pace, with a soft voice and slow drawl. His new album Smokin', Drinkin', and Gamblin' is full of outlaw country rug cutters, and ballads about strong heads and weak hearts. Fueled by nostalgia, his songwriting talent turns old habits into dependable crutches, and nurses the phantom pain of missing lovers. 

Though he hails from rural Illinois, his sound is four-to-the-floor, old-school honky tonk, reminiscent of greats like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard. As great songwriters often do, he spent time as a writer in Nashville, where he had some success, and learned that his songs were too country for the cosmopolitan elite. 

"Redneck Sonsabitches" eloquently details the story of his Nashville experience, one that put him in front of great outlaw songwriter Billie Joe Shaver. Shaver laughed with him about the difficult road honest songwriters sometimes face on Music Row, and asked him if he'd ever been to Texas. Another man of faith, Shaver ensured Gerdes they'd meet again, and three years later Gerdes opened a show for him outside La Grange. The song he penned about it is a swaggerin' chicken-pickin' electric two stepper. The band careens through a tempo change where he namechecks Shaver, who told him "Son, I know just how you feel," before he remembers what record companies remarked about his work—"You long haired redneck sonsabitches are not wanted here in Nashville, Tennessee."

Gerdes began playing country music at the age of 10 in the band of his father, who, as a child, would crowd around the radio with his family waiting for the wind to blow in just the right direction so they could pick up the faint signal from the Grand Ole Opry. The songs his father loved—by country icons like George Jones, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash—provided the foundation for Craig's work. By age 12, he was already a capable songwriter and musician. And by 16, he'd wandered from the narrow path. "In the same summer," he recalls, "I totaled my car, broke my best friend's neck, dropped out of high school, got arrested and got married."

A few years later, after a chance meeting with a Nashville band, Gerdes wound up living on Music Row. For a time, he literally slept on the floor of a studio where greats like George Jones and Jerry Reed had recorded, a place that's now a one bedroom apartment. "I was hoping to soak up some of that mojo," he jokes about harder times. While Gerdes was able to gain traction with a publishing company and even do some co-writing, his traditional songs just didn't fit in. After years of the seven-hour commute back and forth from his family in unincorporated Pattonsburg, Illinois. (pop. 348), every weekend, he decided to go his own way, leaving Nashville behind and returning full-time to rural life. During this point in his life, while Gerdes was on a hiatus from songwriting to concentrate on raising his kids, his 16-year-old cousin was killed in a car wreck. He was compelled to write again by an angel he believes is her. 

Many of Gerdes' songs embody the life of the traveler. While listening to the radio on a trip, he heard the story of a man found cut up in a box and was inspired to write the murder ballad "Dead In A Box In Kentucky." There's a Spanish guitar solo during the bridge that dances into a climactic finish that concludes with a Hitchcockian fratricidal twist. Gerdes' voice is at its strongest on "Almost To Alabama," where he's joined by dobro, imagining the end of the road, and distant lovers. The title track, "Smokin' Drinkin' Gamblin'" is another song only a road-weary rambler could write. It's the apex of country music, where the rhythm section leads in a thudding backbeat, and steel guitar has room to wander all over the beat, while Gerdes moans about "ramblin' my young life away."

Gerdes sings a mean cheatin' song as well. His ribald song "Learned From The Best" and his cover of Johnny Paycheck’s  "Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets" bookend the album, the latter a fitting choice—on the surface, Paycheck’s lyrics are about an illicit affair, but under the covers it's about class distinction; the sleek countrypolitan image the music industry creates, and the actual people they use to make the music they desire. 

While Gerdes' songs about smokin', drinkin' and gamblin' aren't necessarily gospel fare he is for certain "spreading the gospel of country music." His experiences and his angels guard him from writing songs "with no heart or soul." Rarely has classic barroom country been so crossover capable. Give it a listen and you, too, will believe.


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