Artimus Venomus

Artimus Pyle

Artimas Pyle! Artimas ‘Freaking Pyle! Do you recall the daze when Lynyrd Skynyrd was Lynyrd Skynyrd, not the mix-and-match band of new additions and younger family members, semi-right winger flag-wavers they seem to be nowadays? Well, way back in the band’s heyday, before the plane crash tragedy, the drum stool of this great southern rock institution was occupied by the hirsute — ‘always in the pocket’ wild man Artimus Pyle. Pyle bowed out early of the Skynyrd reunions and returns, and hasn’t been seen much on the music scene so his new 12-song CD Artimus Venomus is a welcomed surprise.

This recording of “a 70’s feel and modern productions” boasts “warts and all” performances and the CD definitely feels rough and ready. This approach works for the most part. The players Pyle has assembled, especially co-producer/drummer/guitarist Larry Goad, slide guitarist Jack Pearson, and various great piano players, including Buzz Pickens and Mike Deroches (to name a few), are top-notch. It just goes to show you how many great pickers, strummers and ‘hitters’ there are out there playing dives and honkytonks that we never hear about.

As Artemis warns us, he ain’t no singer. And on the first two tracks, “Brother Walk On By” and the title track, the meat-and-potatoes ‘live’ feel of the production mixed with Pyle’s vocal ‘stylings’ make it hard for me to comment on the effectiveness of the first few lyrics. Mostly Pyle is spitting some venom here for lawyers and celebrity, but because his vocals are limited it’s hard to tell how effective the lyric (and the songs themselves) would sound if there was a better singer and a more lavish production. But this criticism can only be leveled at these first two songs. When “Venomus” gets rolling, the ‘70’s feel’ production is definitely an asset.

On “Can’t Get Off With Your Shoes On,” “Spit,” “AntiVenom,” and what might just be my favorite track, the wonderfully titled “Dead Rock Stars’ Widows, Gigolos, Pocket Money,” there are grooves to grab the listener. That ‘70s’ feel keeps away any extra over-blown production cacophony that would be a detriment. And old Artemis is not above throwing us some curves, beyond putting out this CD in the first place!

“Can’t Get Off…” and “Jerusalem” feature guitar playing by Ed King (stellar guitar playing actually) and on other tracks there are the tasty vocals of JoJo Billingsley White and Leslie Hawkins, all three original Skynyrd alum. As Pyle has mentioned, his voice is certainly not the best and as he even claims in the liner notes, this CD is “out of the box with no trickery” performances. But to tell you the truth, the players here are so good they don’t show too many ‘warts.’ More often than not, the playing, the passion and the groove are aided by this less-is-more approach. Blessed though it would be if a CD like Artimus Venomus ever got the airplay it deserves. Still, it is a breath of fresh air as far as production and performance with some downright sardonic songwriting. Nice to have you back Mr. Pyle!

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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