Q&A: John Fogerty returns to roots with Rangers

Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:35pm EDT
 
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By Cortney Harding

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Attempting to sum up John Fogerty's musical career in a few lines feels incomplete at best. As the frontman for Creedence Clearwater Revival, he brought bluesy swamp rock to the hippie masses; as a solo artist, he's done everything from sharp political tracks to perhaps the greatest baseball tune ever ("Centerfield"). Fogerty also holds the distinct honor of being one of the few musicians to be sued for sounding too much like himself.

When Fogerty released the first Blue Ridge Rangers album in 1973, it was seen as a declaration of his independence from Creedence and the start of his solo career. Since then, he's recorded seven solo albums but has never revisited the country and blues covers-driven project until recently. Fogerty spoke with Billboard about choosing the tracks for "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again" (due September 1 on Fortunate Son/Verve/Forecast), Woodstock and the importance of a great live tune.

Billboard: Why did you decide to revive the Blue Ridge Rangers project now?

John Fogerty: My wife, Julie, suggested it. I was right in the middle of working on a DVD of a show at (London's) Albert Hall, and out of the blue she suggests the Blue Ridge Rangers. I was sort of surprised, but in a sense she was enabling that project. I was never really sure how she even regarded that record; she's probably not the country fan that I am. But that's what got the ball rolling. I guess you might say since she's going to give me a couple of hours off to play with my hobby, I guess I'm going to jump at the chance.

Billboard: After your 2007 release "Revival," which was a loud album, did you have a desire to do something quieter?

Fogerty: I don't really think in those terms. I'm caught up being a musician and a songwriter, and when you're in the middle of the stream it's kind of hard to know anything except what's immediately around you. It's simply that I regard Blue Ridge Rangers music -- that style -- in a very special way, and I don't think I was particularly trying to be quieter or anything like that. I just know that the music that I love certainly comes out in Blue Ridge Rangers mode.

Billboard: How did you decide which songs to put on the album?

Fogerty: I've been carrying around a lot of songs for many, many years. I always had the idea, "Well, if someday I ever do that Blue Ridge Rangers album again, this would be a good song." There was never an official list, although every four or five years I'd actually sit down and write out a list of 20 songs or something. As this thing got more real it became more official. (My wife) had a couple of other suggestions, like the John Denver song "Back Home Again" -- now that was also something on my list but I was very scared of ever trying to do that song. Because John Denver is such a wonderful vocalist, and the fact that he's so great and I don't sound like John Denver. The most horrible thing you can do in life is when you love something so much you make a really bad rendition of it. You want to be that thing but you are not.   Continued...

 
<p>Singer John Fogerty poses backstage at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 10, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>