Profiles

Todd Dills | January 01, 2012

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Profile:  Tony Justice

Singer-songwriter and truck driver Tony Justice raises the bar for honest trucking music with new disc

In 1992 at the Newport, Tenn., Forks of the River Jam, singer-songwriter and B&B Transport driver Tony Justice had the great fortune of opening for Charlie Daniels. The veteran player gave him some well-considered advice: “He told me, ‘I’d tell you to ask yourself one question: If you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’d never make it, would you still be doing it?’”

“On the Road,” a new album of trucking music by Tony Justice, is available now at Pilot Flying J locations. To sample some of the songs, visit http://www.reverbnation.com/truckerjustice.

For Justice, success has varied in the subsequent years. But ever since he started driving trucks in 2000, his love for songwriting and performance has continued unabated. He has penned many a song “just going down the road,” he says. One of them, “Peterbilt 379,” is the opening track of a record you may have seen in the racks at Pilot Flying J locations beginning last month.

Justice’s “On the Road” disc has arrived, a project that was years in the making. Featuring tunes penned by Justice with numerous other songwriters, including Kenny Chesney and Kim Williams, and produced by Randy Boudreaux, it stands to set a new standard for classic country-inflected trucking music.

Justice cut his musical teeth on bass in East Tennessee gospel groups in the mid-to-late 1980s, then playing original country at NASCAR events from about 1992 on. He continues in that gig, having played the Bristol events this year. Along the way, he found a great muse. “You’ve got to love truck drivers on the CB,” he said during an Oct. 15 performance at the Truck Driver Social Media Convention in Tunica, Miss. There and elsewhere he found a wellspring of creativity he harnessed in songs like the album’s opener.

At the Truck Driver Social Media Convention in Tunica, Miss., Tony Justice performed with a full band numerous cover tunes and tracks from the album, including one that exemplifies the personal approach he takes to his music. “Who Needs Heaven?” is Justice’s memorial in country ballad to his mother and father, the latter of whom passed away several years ago.

“Peterbilt 379” is not only the make and model of the truck he drives today for the B&B Transport small fleet, based in his native East Tennessee, it was a fellow driver’s truck he saw emerge into the sunlight from a wash in Illinois several years back. He checked in with “She’s looking good there, driver.” What the driver came back with, delivered rapid-fire — “Yep she’s souped-up shined-up get-you-there-by-sunup” — became the apt description in the rockin’-country chorus.

The new record also includes a version of the Dave Dudley classic “Six Days on the Road,” and numerous other original or first-recorded trucking tunes to boot. Among them are the title track, a country boogie written by Kim Williams and Kenny Chesney exploring the difficulty of sustaining an on-highway marriage, primarily from the point of view of the spouse at home: “While he’s out in the fast lane, her life’s moving slow … She wonders if he’s cheated / She hopes that he’s been true / She knows he’s thought about it / ‘Cause she’s thought about it, too … ”

In the final analysis, it’s an honest, heartfelt approach to music that sets him apart. Though Justice spent due time recording it, he and his band and producers were careful not to overdo it and end up with a record that sounded like something they weren’t. There’s a realness to it in the end, he says, that you just don’t get from many mainstream artists. Watch out for the record on the road, pun intended.

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