Beyond the tragedy, the history, the raging guitars and the killer songs, ultimately, Lynyrd Skynyrd is about an indomitable will—about survival of spirit; unbowed, uniquely American, stubbornly resolute.
With their first set of new studio material since 2003’s Vicious Cycle, legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd returns with God & Guns. Recorded in Nashville in 2008-2009, the project was interrupted—but, tellingly, not ended—by the deaths of founding member/keyboardist Billy Powell and longtime bassist Ean Evans earlier this year.
Driven by core members Gary Rossington (guitar), Johnny Van Zant (vocals) and Rickey Medlocke (guitar), along with longtime drummer Michael Cartellone, Lynyrd Skynyrd have recorded an album that very much lives up to the legacy begun some 35 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida, and halted for a decade by the 1977 plane crash that killed three band members, including Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. Since then, the band tragically lost Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson and Hughie Thomasson, yet they rock on.
With the passing of Powell and Evans, “a lot of people probably expected us to say enough is enough,” admits Medlocke. But that would not be the way of this Rock & Roll Hall of Fame powerhouse. With a catalog of over 60 albums and sales beyond 30 million, Lynyrd Skynyrd remains a cultural icon that appeals to all generations, and God & Guns is a fitting addition to the canon.
Returning to the studio after the death of Powell, whose keyboards can be heard on more than half the songs on God & Guns, was “very difficult, I ain’t gonna lie to you,” says Van Zant. “But we got through it, as Lynyrd Skynyrd seems to always do. Music’s a great healer. These songs needed to be out there, this record needed to be made. Gary, Rickey and myself just said ‘let’s go for it, let’s get this thing done.’”
With noted rock producer Bob Marlette, input from guitarist John 5, and a wealth of material written by the band and a cadre of elite Skynyrd-minded songwriters, a remarkable album emerged. God & Guns manages to maintain the iconic Skynyrd punch while sounding completely contemporary. The title track, along with the unmistakable Skynyrd bite of the first single “Still Unbroken,” form thematic songs for an album laden with attitude, heart and purpose.
This is a band well aware of the responsibility that comes with putting the name ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ on anything, be it an album or a concert. “We feel like we have to keep the standards high,” says Rossington. “I wouldn’t put this record out, I’d fight not to, if I didn’t think it was good.”
And so Skynyrd stands, “still unbroken,” in 2009.