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Last Of A Dyin’ Breed

Loud And Proud (2012)
Rating: 7.5/10

Lynyrd Skynyrd is quite likely the most complicated band on the planet to compare to themselves. The southern rockers have two distinct eras to their career, the first of which damn near created a style of music, and the second carried on the legacy while trying to respectfully add to it.

Beset by the passing of yet another original member, Billy Powell (keyboards), but energized by the welcome reception to the band’s country flavoured God & Guns (2009), the band hit the studio again to lay down the distinctly more rock ’n’ roll, Last Of A Dyin’ Breed.

Featuring the core team of guitarists Gary Rossington and Rickey Medlocke, as well as vocalist Johnny Van Zant, this is the first second era Skynyrd release that really holds water in my opinion. The album kind of takes back that powerhouse, blues-threaded, southern-twanged rock ’n’ roll that dominated the first era and reminds fans that the band, despite its membership changes, is still the working class ball busters we consider them to be.

The album kicks off with its slide guitar driven pinnacle and title track. Van Zant kicks it off with an “Ohh yeahh!” as a boogie beat underpins that seriously awesome slide guitar. Throughout the song we are reminded that there are few bands left like this.

The bluesy bounce of ‘Mississippi Blood’ and its just-crunchy-enough guitars is a great moment as well. It honestly surprises me that I can attach myself to a song about chicks and southern blood, but Skynyrd’s always been good at connecting with their audience.

The ballad ‘Ready To Fly’ doesn’t soar anywhere near the immortal ‘Free Bird’ (originally from Skynyrd’s 1973 debut (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)) but it is an excellent moment of big balladry that echoes the sentiment of emotional pain and loss that everyone, everywhere has felt at one time or another. In other words, you’re gonna need a lighter for this one… or a lighter app for your phone.

The back porch appeal of ‘Start Livin’ Life Again’ will make Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson smile, but probably won’t do much for those clamouring for some more rockers. Personally, it’s very much a highlight for me.

On the other side of the coin, there are a few big letdowns here as well. The modern rock sound of ‘Homegrown’ is not only beyond stupid lyrically, it sounds like they purchased a leftover from the latest Shinedown album. The Lenny Kravitz-laden ‘Good Teacher’ is another moment that, while a little different, just doesn’t work at all.

For the most part, this is Skynyrd at their very best in a very long time. It’s not perfect, but then again, I’m not sure I’ve ever liked a Skynyrd album from start to finish, so who I am I to say? No matter how you slice it, this is a rock solid album that is more than worth the money if you like southern-fuelled hard rock with a side helping of big country-tinged ballads.

Mark Fisher

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