Confederate Railroad is an American country rock/southern rock band founded in 1987 in Marietta, Georgia by Danny Shirley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Michael Lamb (lead guitar), Mark Dufresne (drums), Chris McDaniel (keyboards), Warren "Gates" Nichols (steel guitar) and Wayne Secrest (bass guitar). After serving as a backing band for outlaw country act David Allan Coe, the band signed to a recording contract with Atlantic Records, releasing their self-titled debut album that year. Throughout the 1990s, they released four more albums for Atlantic.
Confederate Railroad has released six studio albums. In addition, more than twenty of their singles have entered the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Only two changes in membership have occurred, both in the late 1990s-early 2000s: Michael Lamb was replaced by Jimmy Dormire on lead guitar, and Cody McCarver took over for Chris McDaniel, the band's original keyboardist. In addition to his work with Confederate Railroad, McCarver has released one solo album and two singles. Dormire was replaced in 2008 by Rusty Hendrix.
The band's most recent studio album, a compilation of cover songs entitled Cheap Thrills, was issued on the independent Shanachie label in 2007. The band released their first live album, Confederate Railroad Live: Back to the Barrooms, on the E1 Music label on June 15, 2010.
Confederate Railroad was founded in 1987 by Danny Shirley, Michael Lamb, Gates Nichols, Chris McDaniel, Wayne Secrest, and Mark Dufresne. The six members began playing at bars in and around Atlanta, Georgia. Over time, they also worked as a road band for David Allan Coe and Johnny Paycheck. Shirley had previously been signed to the Amor record label as a solo singer, charting five times on the country charts between 1984 and 1988.
After several years in the Atlanta area, the band signed with Atlantic Records in 1992 and released its self-titled debut album. The album produced six hit singles and was certified 2× Platinum in the U.S. In 1993, Confederate Railroad was awarded Best New Group at the ACM awards. In order of release, these singles were "She Took It Like a Man", "Jesus and Mama", "Queen of Memphis" (their highest chart peak, at No. 2), "When You Leave That Way You Can Never Go Back", "Trashy Women" and "She Never Cried".
Notorious was the band's second album. Released in 1994, it was certified platinum as well. The album was led off by the No. 9 "Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind", followed by the No. 20 "Elvis and Andy" and finally "Summer in Dixie", which failed to make Top 40. Also in 1994, Shirley and Mark Collie co-wrote and sang guest vocals on Billy Ray Cyrus's "Redneck Heaven", an album cut from his 1994 disc Storm in the Heartland.
One year later, the band released its third album, 1995's When and Where. This album failed to sell as well as its predecessors, and was less successful on the charts as well. Lead-off single "When and Where" reached No. 24, while the other three singles -- "Bill's Laundromat, Bar and Grill", "When He Was My Age", and "See Ya" -- all failed to reach Top 40. A Greatest Hits package followed in 1996.
In 1998, the band released its fourth and final studio album for Atlantic, entitled Keep on Rockin'. Its only two singles were "The Big One" and "Cowboy Cadillac", which both failed to reach Top 60 on the country singles charts. After another compilation entitled Rockin' Country Party Pack (which produced another chart single in "Toss a Little Bone", previously from When and Where), the band exited Atlantic.
One year later, Confederate Railroad signed to Audium/Koch Records (now E1 Music) for its fifth studio album, Unleashed. It was led off by the No. 39 "What Brothers Do". Although this was the band's first Top 40 country hit since "When and Where" in 1995, the other singles -- "She Treats Her Body Like a Temple" and "White Trash with Money" -- both failed to reach Top 40 as well.
The band did not record again until 2007's Cheap Thrills, an album composed of cover songs. This album was led off by a cover of "Please Come to Boston", which failed to chart.
Confederate Railroad signed a Record Deal with E1 Music in 2010 and released their first ever Live CD called "Confederate Railroad Live: Back to the Barrooms". Cody McCarver of Confederate Railroad also is signed to that label and has recently had success with Confederate Railroad's song "White Trash with Money" which was written by Confederate Railroad's Danny Shirley with songwriter Buck Moore. The Video by Cody also featured Jimmy Dormire who left Confederate Railroad in 2008. Cody McCarver released a single and video called "I'm America".
Described vocally as a "gruff, reliable twanger", lead singer Danny Shirley cites outlaw country acts such as Waylon Jennings as his major influence. According to him, the band's music is "straight-ahead outlaw country", although their image has also drawn comparisons to Southern rock.
Confederate Railroad's novelty numbers, such as "Trashy Women", show a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. A reviewer for New Country magazine wrote that they are "one of the few bands who can pull off a song about how they prefer trashy women and sound like they really mean it". A more serious side of the band is shown in their ballads. Those on Notorious, for instance, were described by New Country magazine as "showing men left stunned and confused by a world that changed faster than they could follow".
Lead guitarist Michael Lamb, one of the group's original members, left in the mid 1990s and was replaced with Jimmy Dormire. Chris McDaniel, the original keyboardist, left and was replaced with Cody McCarver. McCarver has released a solo album, although he continued to tour as a member of Confederate Railroad up until his last performance with them at the Putnam County Fair in Eleanor, WV on July 16, 2010. In June 2008, Jimmy Dormire announced that he was leaving Confederate Railroad to continue his solo career, though he continues as a member of Cody McCarver's band. Dormire was subsequently replaced by Rusty Hendrix. Gates Nichols retired from Confederate Railroad in December 2008, and in July of the following year, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He succumbed to the disease on the morning of August 14, 2009, at the age of 65. Nearly two years later, in January 2011, Bobby Randall became the newest member of Confederate Railroad, playing steel guitar and fiddle. Randall was one of the founding members of fellow country group Sawyer Brown, having played lead guitar in that band from its formation in 1981 to his departure 10 years later.
In addition to his work in the band, frontman Danny Shirley made a guest appearance alongside Mark Collie on the song "Redneck Heaven" from Billy Ray Cyrus' 1994 album Storm in the Heartland, a song which Collie and Shirley co-wrote. Cody McCarver released a self-titled solo album for the Aspirion label in 2006, which produced the non-charting singles "Red Flag" and "Through God's Eyes". He released another single, "Look What You've Done", in 2009. His 2010 single "White Trash With Money" was written by fellow band member Shirley along with songwriter Buck Moore. "White Trash With Money" was followed by "I'm America".