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Around Our Town...Music to My Ears

Van Zant: Get Right With The Man

06/01/2005 - Okay, I have to preface this review by saying that I can't be objective about Johnny and Donnie Van Zant's latest release. You see, this one hits me right where I live. Right smack in the middle, man. If you haven't figured it out, I've got a redneck streak a country mile wide. Owing to the fact that all you folks live in the great state of Wyoming, I imagine some of you do, too. Don't worry, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If anything Jeff Foxworthy says makes you laugh, if you've ever caught yourself singing along to "Sweet Home Alabama" or "Freebird," or if you feel the world's turning a little too fast, you're one of us. So...between you and me and the fencepost, I'll tell you straight out. I love the music the remaining Van Zant boys are making (Ronnie, who was the lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd, died in a plane crash way back in the seventies. But then you knew that.) "Get Right With The Man" speaks to me on a lot of levels. It rocks, while maintaining that dirt road country feel. It's heavily spiritual, gritty, and closely tied to the values that define me and a whole lot of other people out there. I've always maintained that the gap between bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, and traditional country music wasn't really all that far. It turns out that a few steel guitar licks and some slide guitar riffs might make up the difference here. It appears that the Van Zant boys are proving me right (Again? Wow.).

So what about the music? Glad you asked. Some genius over at Columbia Records decided that the lead off track should be the rocker,"Takin' Up Space." Good move, except that I just about can't get past that dang song. I keep wanting to hit the backward button when it's over. If you can force yourself to stop listening to that first tune, though, you'll find that from there the good stuff keeps coming. There's plenty of nasty slide guitar, punchy drumming, soulful backing vocals (a la Skynyrd), and ridiculously hooky choruses featuring anthemic lyrics about sin, redemption, and just living. It's pretty tough to pick out favorites, but if I absolutely had to, I'd say "Takin' Up Space," "Help Somebody," "Things I Miss The Most," "Lovin' You," and "Been there, Done That" would have to be the winners. Especially "Been There Done That." That song is so much about me that it's a little spooky. Besides that, it jams in a real southern, honest kind of way that fits just right.

I've cross-checked a lot of reviews on this one, and was surprised to see that there has been a little bit of a mixed response to this record. But then, aren't we all caught a little off guard when we find that not everyone agrees with us? It's too bad, really. I guess not everybody gets it. I'd be willing to bet a dollar that you do, though. Folks, let's get back to the country, but let's rock on the way there.

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