Skynyrd Nation

by: Lynyrd Skynyrd

With their classic early lineup, anchored by the swagger, grit, and heart of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, Lynyrd Skynyrd merged Allman Brothers guitars with barrelhouse piano (courtesy of keyboardist Billy Powell, a bigger part of Skynyrd's classic sound than most people realize), then tossed in a big dose of hard rock attitude and gave it all credence with a kind of blustering and cocky honky tonk sensibility. The original band just sounded so, well, right, and if its legacy in most casual listeners' minds is just the ubiquitous "Sweet Home Alabama" and the equally as ubiquitous "Free Bird," that's not a bad legacy to have, really. Skynyrd's story is also a gothic Southern tragedy, haunted by fatal plane crashes and death, and if the 21st century version of the band (current membership includes ex-Blackfoot guitarist Rickey Medlocke, drummer Michael Cartellone, vocalist Johnny Van Zant, and guitarist Gary Rossington, who is the only member left from the original version of Skynyrd) seems more like a facsimile than a continuation, one could chalk it up to pure attrition. This 21st century version of Skynyrd continues to tour and draw loyal crowds, and if newer songs like “Still Unbroken,” “Southern Ways,” and “Floyd” are good but not quite as good as the band’s earlier classics, it's probably not fair to ask this version of the band to compete with its own past. This sampler of the contemporary version of Skynyrd on Roadrunner Records collects five tracks each from the studio album God & Guns and the concert set Live from Freedom Hall, providing a concise look at this configuration of the band. They may not be what they used to be, but they still rock earnestly, and they aren’t afraid to embrace their own history -- live versions of “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird” are still the most arresting tracks on this little anthology. ~ Steve Leggett

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