10 Spectacular Southern Rock Songs, by DeWolff's Luka van de Poel

The Allman Brothers Band
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

"It was about five years ago, when we discovered the compilation album Delta Swamp Rock, that really got us into southern rock," says DeWolff drummer Luka van de Poel. "We knew the Allman Brothers (above) and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but this was a whole new thing to us: Leon Russell, Cowboy, Barefoot Jerry, Dan Penn." 

For a band raised on the Dutch flatlands, DeWolff seem peculiarly attuned to the music of the Southern USA. New album Thrust – the band's sixth – is steeped in the stuff, from old hands like Little Feat to newer acts such as Alabama Shakes. 

Even their studio, tucked beneath medieval arches in Utrecht, is called Electrosauris Southern Sound, while other references crop up wherever you look: DeWolff's fourth album was called Grand Southern Electric, while the follow-up, Roux-ga-roux, was named after a vampire-type creature famous in the folklore of Cajun French Louisiana. When the band released a very limited edition 'greatest hits' cassette earlier this year, it bore the title Grand Southern Cassette. And all this from one compilation album.  

"It was around the same time that we started listening to Music From Big Pink and the second album from The Band and lots of other American stuff from the 70’s," adds van de Poel. It also got us hooked on old soul music. And that’s what Southern rock is: it’s blues, soul, country, and can even be funky as hell if you listen to artists like Jim Ford and Tony Joe White."

Below, Luka van de Poel picks out 10 Southern Rock classics. DeWolff's Thrust album is out now

Jim Ford - I’m Gonna Make Her Love Me

"When we first discovered Jim Ford we couldn’t believe that he was such an undiscovered gem. His album Harlan County is the perfect combination of country, raw soul and southern rock. Sly Stone once called him 'The baddest white man on the planet". Every song on this record is just brilliant in it's very own way, I'm gonna make her love me being one of best, badass, dirty country funk songs of all time."

The Band - Don’t Do It

"We know, four fifths of The Band are from Canada, but Levon Helm is Southern enough to give it that great southern touch. The Band made some of the most beautiful songs on earth, but they could also rock. Unfortunately they never released a studio version of this song, but there is some great live footage of Don’t Do It on internet. Levon was the king of the half-time groove, and the part where he plays his drum groove and sings “I go down to the river, and there I’ll be, I’m gonna jump in girl but you don’t care about me” is so badass it gives me goosebumps all the time."  

Cowboy - Seven Four Tune

"To this day I haven’t figured out why Cowboy aren’t more popular that The Eagles. I mean, their songs are soooooo good. They did this thing years before the Eagles had their success, but still Cowboy are so unknown that every time I meet someone who knows their music, I can hardly believe it! They released three albums (Reach For The Sky, 5’ll Getcha Ten and Boyer & Talton) and every single song is brilliant. If I have to pick one ‘Rock' song to add to this list it’ll be Seven Four Tune, but I like their accosting songs like Lookin’ For You, 5’ll Getcha Ten and Pretty Friend even better. Go get their records if you can find them!"

Grinderswitch -  Let The South Wind Blow

"This southern rocker instantly gives you a good feeling. The opening riff is very powerful, and Dru Lombar is one of the best ‘blue eyed soul’ singers I know. The album Macon Tracks is a fine example of genuine and sincere southern rock."

"We all know Rumble, but did you know Link Wray made some awesome records in the early 70s? He picks his acoustic guitar like a maniac and screams his (one and only) lung out to the stomping groove. This album was recorded in Link’s ’shack three track’ studio, which was an old chicken shack converted into a studio. The simplicity of the songs, how it was recorded and what instruments they used really adds to the charm of this record." 

Gritz - Bayou Country

"This song is the epitome of southern rock. Gritz only recorded two songs and one of them is the breathtaking Bayou Country, where they sing ‘I gotta get back to the bayou country, smell of magnolias bring you to your knees, fais do dos and cajun women, Spanish moss hanging from the big oak trees’. Well, close your eyes and Gritz takes you back to that bayou country. I wish they recorded more songs, because this one keeps you craving for more."

Johnny Jenkins - Walk On Guilded Splinters

"Johnny Jenkins recorded this epic Dr. John song in the legendary Capricorn Studio. It’s on the album Ton-Ton Macoute! which has some incredibly groovy tunes on it. Oh wait, it’s actually the Allman Brothers Band who played on most of the songs. Can you imagine? The Allman Brothers as a backing band for a soul singer? Must hear this one!"

The Allman Brothers Band - Black Hearted Woman

I still can’t believe Gregg Allman was only 21 or 22 when he recorded Black Hearted Woman. His voice sounds so raw and gritty. Awesome tune and very powerful.

Townes van Zandt - Where I Lead Me 

"Townes van Zandt and southern rock? We all know Townes can make every human being cry when he starts singing. But he could also play a decent rocker like Where I Lead Me. If you’re not familiar with Townes van Zandt, then checking out his records is the first thing you should do!"

Leon Russell - Of Thee I Sing

"Leon Russell is southern rock and southern rock is Leon Russell. This bearded man from Oklahoma made some legendary records like Leon Russell and The Shelter People and Carney. If you check out his 1973 live album Leon Live you come to discover that Leon is preaching the southern rock gospel. His live show is so intense, so good, and he keeps on whipping up the audience like the devil is at his heels. Of Thee I sing is just one of many great songs he wrote."

DeWolff's Thrust is out now. The band play The Black Heart in London's Camden Town on May 15. Tickets are on sale now

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.