The Bellamy Brothers are taking a different approach to a greatest hits compilation. In celebrating their 40th anniversary, the country legends' brand-new 40 Years: The Album is a two-disc set that not only includes 20 of their best-loved hits, but also an album featuring 20 new tunes.
"With greatest hits packages, people always expect certain songs. Howard and I wanted to figure out how to do that and still do new music," David Bellamy tells Rolling Stone Country.
The first disc includes such Bellamy classics as "Redneck Girl," Sugar Daddy," "Crazy From the Heart," "Lovers Live Longer," "Old Hippie," a live version of "You Ain't Just Whistlin' Dixie" and their signature song, "Let Your Love Flow." The duo recently filmed a new video for that classic hit, featuring 60 breast cancer survivors from the Fort Worth, Texas area.
"A friend of [my wife] Susan's put us in touch with the Susan G. Komen people," David says of the well-known organization that funds breast cancer awareness and treatment. "It was very inspiring. We had special T-shirts for all of them. They're doing a year-long [campaign] with 'Let Your Love Flow' for their website, and we're donating a dollar through iTunes for the next year off sales of this CD."
The new songs on 40 Years continue the Bellamy Brothers' tradition of waxing poetic on the ups and downs of life, most notably on the autobiographical "Dyin' Breed."
"We've gotten a lot of great feedback on it. It's gotten incredible response on Texas radio," Howard says of the new track. "It's a song that we actually both sing on, and it's about both of us. It's about where we are at this point in life. As I look at the album, I can see a lot of the titles we picked are about accepting the fact that we're getting older and trying to do it gracefully."
Also among the new songs is an intriguing tune titled "We Don't Call 911." "It's kind of a cross between Ray Stevens and Waylon Jennings," Howard says with a laugh. "It's about the way we were raised. We don't call 911 where we come from. It's not pro-gun, but I'm sure some people might take it as that, if they wanted it to be."
The collection might be one of the singers' most musically adventurous to date. Traditional country tunes are mixed with groove-filled jam, pop-country reminiscent of their Seventies catalog and some country-rockers, such as "Time Rocks On," which Howard likens to a Rolling Stones hit. Some of the material was also influenced by the brothers' world travels.
"Howard wrote a song called 'Jet Lag Journey' just before for we left for India," David reports. "We were just finishing the project with [Swiss pop star] Gola. We literally finished up one night and left for India from Florida the next day. 'Jet Lag Journey' is almost like an old Chuck Berry song, an old Fifties song with saxophone in it."
After 40 years in the music industry, the Bellamys have no desire to rest on their laurels. They have an extensive tour schedule that includes shows in Germany, Switzerland and Norway this summer, and they'll return to Europe in September. 40 Years: The Album is being released in Germany on Hypertension, also the label home to their pals the Bacon Brothers. In the U.S., the album will be released on the duo's own Bellamy Brothers Records.
"For our little independent label, we're pretty happy because we have pretty much a world-wide release on the album. We don't have nearly the vast coverage than younger artists, but we do have a good profit margin," Howard says, laughing, "because there's nobody else involved. It's pretty much our thing and our music is getting distributed throughout the world, so it ends up being a pretty big deal. We're actually working on another tour of India and Sri Lanka, and working on getting an album released there. We went to India and we were so shocked about how big of an audience we had. It was amazing."
Even after 40 years of worldwide fame in the business, the Bellamy Brothers are still scratching their heads over the secret to career longevity. David just chalks it up to a combination of fate and ambition. "You've got to take a shot at things even if it sounds a little ridiculous sometimes," he says. "We've been a little fearless. I don't think that would work for everybody, but it's seems to have worked for us."