Craig Gerdes is a singer whose voice is steadied by the legion of angels he believes watch over him. He tells stories at a Southern pace, with a soft voice and slow drawl. His new album Smokin, Drinkin, and Gamblin is full of outlaw country rug cutters, and ballads about strong heads and weak hearts. Fueled by nostalgia, his songwriting talent turns old habits into dependable crutches, and nurses the phantom pain of missing lovers.
Though he hails from rural Illinois, his sound is four-on-the-floor, old-school, San Marcos, Texas-style honky tonk. His work is reminiscent of greats like Leon Payne, George Strait, Jim Lauderdale and James McMurtry. As great songwriters often do, he spent time as a writer in Nashville, where he had some success, and learned that his songs were too country for the cosmopolitan elite.
"Redneck Sonsabitches" eloquently details the story of his Nashville experience, one that put him in front of great outlaw songwriter Billie Joe Shaver. Shaver laughed with him about the difficult road honest songwriters sometimes face on Music Row, and asked him if he'd ever been to Texas. Another man of faith, Shaver ensured Gerdes they'd meet again, and three years later Gerdes opened a show for him outside La Grange. The song he penned about it is a swaggerin' chicken-pickin' electric two stepper. The band careens through a tempo change where he namechecks Shaver, who told him "Son, I know just how you feel," before he remembers what record companies remarked about his work—"You long haired redneck sonsabitches are not wanted here in Nashville, Tennessee."