The Band of Heathens have shared a new track, their version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” While best known as a hit song first performed by John Denver, the song was also recorded by Ray Charles on his seminal 1972 album A Message From The People. Today, the Band’s new version of the song is from their ambitious re-envisioning of Charles’ album in its entirety. The song is currently streaming via Taste Of Country who writes that “Charles brought a very different vibe to Denver’s hit, adding a gospel flair, and the Band of Heathens chose to split the difference in their new rendition.”
Listen: The Band of Heathens – “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
Aptly titled A Message From The People Revisited, The Band of Heathens’ upcoming record offers new takes on the original album’s ten tracks including “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong,” “Hey Mister,” and “Heaven Help Us All” presented in The Band of Heathens’ own voice while staying true to the weight and tone of the originals – as well as Charles’ own indelible interpretations. The band chose to re-record the often forgotten album because of its moving commentary on social justice, abuse-of-power, and its vision for a stronger, more-unified America. A Message From The People Revisited will be released on September 14th.
Upon first hearing the new record, musical legend Quincy Jones (who is credited as an Arranger on the original album) exclaimed, “It’s a great interpretation and I admire their spirit to give it to charity!”
Rolling Stone Country also recently praised the album’s first single, “America The Beautiful,” which was released during the July 4th holiday; “On ‘America the Beautiful’ – still the album’s crown jewel, as well as its final track – the Band of Heathens mix the stomp of a roots-rock band with Stax-sized soul. There’s upright piano, swirling organ and a full choir, all centered around an elastic vocal performance that would’ve made Charles proud.” The record has also earned acclaim from Wide Open Country, Popmatters, The Boot, Whiskey Riff, and more.
The group was moved to record their own version of A Message From The People after listening to the album while on tour together in 2017. “We were on the road somewhere in New England when the topic of conversation drifted toward the troubled social climate in the country,” writes the band. “We related similar experiences with how divisiveness was affecting those around us, how families were being torn apart over political and social issues.” To lighten the mood the group turned to music and an out-of-print Ray Charles album which immediately spoke to their sense of unease and discontent. “With the first notes of the opening track ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’, Ray had our undivided attention. Often referred to as the Black National Anthem, Ray’s genius is in full flight from the get-go, singing with incredible jubilation and hope, hitting us like a ton of bricks. It seemed to us as if Ray Charles was speaking to us and the issues of today, from the past.”
The group soon decided that the soulful message of unity and perseverance in the album deserved to be shared again with modern listeners, and got to work at The Finishing School Recording studio in Austin with producer Steve Christensen. The results were striking in the group’s ability to capture the energy and feeling of urgency that permeates Charles’ landmark album.
Last year, The Band of Heathens made a giant leap with their full length album Duende, which landed on Rolling Stone’s top 50 Americana and Country Albums of 2017 at #31. The subject of significant acclaim from Relix, No Depression, The Boot, Rolling Stone Country and others, Duende was the band’s fifth studio album (and eighth overall), and marked their twelfth anniversary as a group.