God & Guns

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Ole’ southern stalwarts Lynyrd Skynyrd haven’t released a studio album since 2003; six years later they’re back with God & Guns. It’s good to see a band that has seen this much tragedy still rockin’ out, though it’s clear this ain’t your daddy’s Lynyrd Skynyrd anymore. The first two tunes, “Still Unbroken” and “Simple Life,” are more or less hewn from the same stuff — loud, straight-ahead rockers, lots of guitar leads, lyric that are a little too ‘simple’ to be effective. “Little Thing Called You” is where the CD really takes off, showcasing Gary Rossington’s signature slide, a good groove and a catchy chorus.

“Southern Ways’ is slower, another one with lots of space. The first time we hear piano, it’s not clear if this is the late great Billy Powell or new keyboardist Peter Keys. There are a few hints of “Sweet Home Alabama,” but if you’re gonna steal from someone, why not steal from yourself. “Skynyrd Nation” features some excellent interaction between guitarists Rickey Medlocke and Mark “Sparky” Matejka, but the lyrics are…well, let’s just say they aren’t great.

“Unwrite That Song” is one of the few songs where a simple lyric does work. It’s a pretty ballad that evokes some nice moments, embellished with strings. “Floyd” leads us into some backwoods, with a low roll, a spiky slide and a creepy “ah ya ya ya hi” backing vocal. This is one of the better Johnny Van Zant vocals on the CD, and perhaps indicative of the direction the band should be heading — atmospheric, tightly constructed with a nod to a more, dare I say it, modern approach while retaining that swampy Skynyrd vibe.

“That Ain’t My America” and “Gods & Guns” employ that over-ripe red, white and blue overzealousness in the lyrics, loaded with over-produced guitars and a shallow vocal. Nothing against patriotism, but these are just not well-written lyrics. They even tarnish “Gifted Hands,” the sappy finale be effective, though it’s a sincere tribute to the many departed and fallen members of the band. Does it matter? Probably not because the guitars are still a-blazin’, the southern flag’s still wavin’, and any band who lists tour personel on their CD earns a few points in my book! Good or bad, God & Guns is just what you would and should expect from Lynyrd Skynyrd in 2009.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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