With a remarkable eight dead band members behind them, Lynyrd Skynyrd are better placed than most bands to declare themselves the last men standing. Those aren’t the only numbers to astound: 60 albums in their far-reaching and sometimes reworked catalogue, 30 million albums sold, and the reassuring twang of Sweet Home Alabama has now topped the two million mark as a downloaded ringtone. Who said downloading was killing music?
More extraordinary still is their ability to lose a musical lynchpin like keyboard player Billy Powell in 2009 and still soldier on. For some detractors, Lynyrd Skynyrd were all but done when their plane crashed out of the skies and into the woods surrounding Gillsburg, Mississippi in 1977, but relatively recent history belies that kind of thinking.
2003’s Vicious Cycle gave the band a hit single and album in the US long after most people considered them part of the mainstream, and perhaps more importantly, 2009’s God & Guns saw a band sharpening their songwriting smarts, as well as opening themselves up to new ideas, not least by inviting what would seem like the diametrically opposed Rob Zombie and John 5 to play on their record.
Although they’ve returned to work with that album’s producer, Bob Marlette, on Dyin’ Breed the approach is more likely to appeal to fans who discovered the band with Tuesday’s Gone than those who stumbled upon their music via Kid Rock switching up the ubiquitous …Alabama on his radio hit All Summer Long. Which is to say, this is the familiar sound of some good old boys either tearing it up or coming down.
Time hasn’t diluted their taste for the dramatic – the stirring Ready To Fly, with some deft, Powell-like piano playing, rounds up all the facets that make up what passes for a power ballad in southern rock, and is no less a song for that. At the other end of the spectrum, the pugnacious Life’s Twisted reminds you just where a band like Shinedown picked up a few of their licks.
Equally good is the insistent thrum of Homegrown and the stirring Something To Live For, which sounds very much as its title suggests it might – overwrought guitars, yearning lap steel and the kind of finale that can only end amid a sea of fluttering Confederate flags as the south rouses itself one more time.