Around the time the Charlie Daniels Band recorded the music that became 1976's Saddle Tramp, the group was experiencing its first wave of success, as both Fire on the Mountain and Nightrider found an audience, and the group became known for their live performances, particularly through Daniels' Volunteer Jams concerts. Saddle Tramp rode this momentum into the country Top Ten and a gold album -- all without a Top Ten country single, it should be noted. That's because the Charlie Daniels Band turned into the country equivalent of a radio-oriented rock band, where singles were less important than a unified whole of an album, which sought to replicate the feel of live performances. Since the CDB was a country band, that meant that they had less of a theme to tie together their records -- not even to the extent that the Grateful Dead did on Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, two records whose influence is felt on Saddle Tramp. Instead, the band cut seven songs, sometimes stretching out and jamming for a long, long time, other times focusing that energy into a three- or four-minute song. So, Saddle Tramp becomes about the texture and feel of the performances more than the songs, which makes it a quintessential jam record, complete with the flaw of putting a ten-minute title track as the second song, thereby killing any forward momentum the album had. It's a good jam, and it shows that the CDB was a vigorous, muscular band capable of shifting styles and tones easily and gracefully; it would have worked better at the end of the album, where it would have summarized the rest of the record and how it touches on cowboy music, bluegrass, blues, hillbilly, and swinging jazz in equal measure. Arriving so early in the record signals that this is a jam record for jam fans, and on that level, it works very well, since it does showcase the band at a near-peak of its talents. But, like many other jam records, Saddle Tramp winds up not being about the songs (which, apart from the single "Wichita Jail," aren't particularly memorable), but being about the feel of the music and the sound of the band, which can make for good listening, provided that's what you're looking to hear.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine