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The Derailers soldier on

By Dawn Pomento, July 2006

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Cason wanted to capture the live sound of The Derailers, and as producer, he seems to have hit that target. Hofeldt can't say enough about the affect Cason had on the band and the fast-paced CD.

"Buzz is a great guy, a great friend of ours. Somebody I'm glad I crossed paths with. We had quite a kinship from right at the beginning. We got together to write. Next thing you know we were making a record. We met each other in April, got together in August, and by December, were done."

The song that inspired the CD title, "Soldier of Love" has a retro feel, with the kind of doo-wop chorus that could have been written only in the 1960s. It mixes well with Hofeldt's own songs and the ones he co-wrote with Cason.

One Cason song, though, doesn't sound like any other on the CD or like a typical Derailers tune: "The One Before Me." Hofeldt explains that Cason had many older songs for Hofeldt to consider recording. "Of all the songs he had to offer, that one really appealed to me," Hofeldt says. "It's the overtones of jealously, just sort of a passionate plea to a lover. I thought, 'Man, I like that song a lot, I think we can do it.' I hadn't done a lot of ballad singing previously. In The Derailers, my former partner Tony had done most of that, and I had been the rock and roll side of it. But a lot of people really react to that one."

Cason has been nominated to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for his 50-year career in music. Hofeldt says "He is from a different generation, but he kicked me in the butt and motivated me. They don't call him Buzz for nothing - he takes the stairs two at a time. It made me move up a notch and take things really seriously."

While Cason's influence on "Soldiers of Love" is obvious, there's also no mistaking that Bakersfield Sound that has always been the thumping heart of The Derailers. That's because Bakersfield was the impetus for the band.

"For Tony and I, that was our common bond. We had a lot of common bonds, but that was definitely the main one. We loved that Bakersfield Sound. Some of the stuff that Buck Owens did in the '60s was at that time so shockingly in your face in some ways that it really turned people on their ear."

"And I think it retains some of that electricity today. His recorded legacy is amazing. He wasn't afraid to mix in his influences. And (did) that without worrying about what people thought. It was hugely successful, fortunately for what he wanted to do. We just really admired that and really wanted to have that same sensibility in what we did. And try to do it like Buck did."

Not only were The Derailers able to do it like Buck did, but they were able to perform for and with their hero. "We first met Buck in '95, I guess, and he was really knocked out by our sound." Hofeldt says, laughing.

"It sounded like him. Of course he liked it. He had us play at his 70th birthday party there in Bakersfield, and soon thereafter had us play New Year's Eve. These were his parties that he was throwing with his friends and family, and he chose us to entertain. That meant a great deal to us. He really loved our single, which I guess at the time was 'California Angel.' It was really amazing for us to get that nod from our hero. He was very kind and supportive to us throughout the years."

After that kind of musical endorsement, what else could a band aspire to? Hofeldt's answer is surprisingly frank and philosophical. "Some of these accomplishments that you reach for. It's like that song 'Everything I Believe In' on this new record. I wrote that with my friend Bill Whitbeck. And I got the idea from this quote by Carl Jung. I read a lot, and I don't think I was actually reading Jung, I think I read a quote from him in someone (else's work). You never know what you might find us reading here on the bus."

"To paraphrase it, we're happiest when we're striving to reach our goals and dreaming about what it will be like when we do, rather than the point when it happens, and it's maybe not as exciting or joy-inspiring as dreaming about it. Because once you've reached that place, you have other goals past that. It doesn't seem that monumental."

But still, what might happen next for the band? "This is a journey that we've done over the years with The Derailers. Things pop up that you wouldn't expect. We'll just keep hoping." Hofeldt says with a laugh, "Maybe we'll get to meet Paul McCartney one day."

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