Dave Dudley - Rhythm Of Road

First published in Country Music People, January 1981

Once again, the country fans of Kent displayed their complete disinterest in a sit-down country music show by not turning up for Dave Dudley’s only appearance in the south. These pseudo-cowboys and their Calamity James want a huge dance floor and second-rate bands who murder the old Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves and Merle Haggard tunes, then they’re happy. Tell them there is a country concert with a legendary American star and they would rather turn their backs and go looking for a new Stetson!

Little more than 120 turned out for a show that had been well publicised for weeks beforehand, and they were treated to a feast of good music. Things were set in motion by Rhythm Of The Road, a band they had not seen before. Their interpretation of Larry Gatlin and the Oak Ridge Boys’ numbers highlighted the cohesive harmonies of the band, but a major problem is the lack of a really forceful lead vocalist. 

They scored with the audience both visually and vocally, by offering variety, but the jumping back and forth in material choice proved misleading.

They tried to cover too much ground, but have the potential of developing into a solid group, assuming that they find a root that they can grow from. In contrast, John Aston has been around for many years, and it showed in the professional way he managed to entertain an audience that was obviously waiting for the star—Dave Dudley. Flashing back and forth from ballads to bouncy rhythms, John brought his own distinctive styling to both old and new titles.

Rhythm Of The Road returned to pave the way for Dudley. The legendary singer, not showing any fatigue after 20 years as one of the premier truck-drivin’ heroes, was in top form, mixing country ballads and up-tempo tunes with craftsman-like precision. He opened with the old folk favourite, John Henry and stayed mainly with familiar material, throwing in There Ain’t No Easy Run, Truck Drivin’ Sun Of A Gun and Last Days In The Mine. The voice that made those songs hits was still as powerful as ever. The occasional missed note was barely noticed in the enthusiasm of his performance and his sheer stamina as he swung effortlessly from one song to another.

Highlight of his set, of course, was Six Days On The Road, and it was delivered with force and excitement, and won him a well-deserved encore. It was perhaps unfortunate that more thought hadn’t been given to the choice of band that Dave was asked to work with. Rhythm Of The Road are not really gusty enough for Dudley’s truckin’ songs, but then few really noticed that slight flaw in an otherwise excellent show.