Monday, March 20, 2006

More Musings on Southern Rock

A week ago I posted some thoughts on Lynrd Skynrd, The Allman Brothers, and southern rock and roll in general. Finally I am back today to wrap up some of those thoughts.

There are multiple ways to look at southern rock, I subscribe to two main views. The first is rock bands from the south who infuse their culture into their music. This is like Skynrd, Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band, Drive-By Truckers, etc. The second view is rock bands not from the south who have a very southern sound. Examples are Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead (at times), and THE BAND.

I wanted to mention THE BAND because they have some of the best examples of southern rock. Four members of the band (Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson) are from Canada, but one (Levon Helm) is from Arkansas. But despite their Canuck heritage much of their music has a distinctly Dixie flavor to it. Off of their second album (The Band) many of the songs exhibit a very southern quality. The best examples come in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", "Up On Cripple Creek", "Whispering Pines", "Jemima Surrender", "Rockin Chair", "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)", and "Rag Mama Rag".

Each of these songs blends folk, rock, and blues to give THE BAND a very old-timey sound. In an earlier post I remarked that they sounded like they could have been from 1930 or 1860 as much as from 1970. Much of THE BAND's music I find to be more true to the southern spirit than the indulgent music of say... Skynrd. For your "Freebird" look at "I Shall Be Released", for your "Simple Man" look at "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)", for "Sweet Home Alabama" look at "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". In fact you can put any song ever recorded in the south or about the south next to "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and you wouldn't top it for a more southern feel.

Basically what I am trying to say is that southern music isn't exclusive to southerners. If I am looking for a song to base my southern identity on... Skynrd ain't that good. In fact Drive-By Truckers are equal in that aspect in my opinion, and DBT are heavily influenced by Skynrd. If I am a Cajun like Nick then I would take a song like "Acadian Driftwood" by THE BAND to heart as a beautiful tale on the Cajuns.

While I consider the Allman Brothers to be the "ultimate" southern band I think that you can't go wrong with the southern feel and flavor of much of THE BAND's work. You won't find such beautiful finely-crafted songs in many other places. Skynrd is okay, but its such a cliche to be a Skynrd fan. At least with THE BAND the sound is unique and there aren't a million other bands trying to replicate their sound. So if you want southern rock-blues-folk look no further than Canada.


Blogger Newspaper Hack said...

I agree about the DBT senitment -- with Danielle Howle, probably the only artists in my collection with a straight-out Southern accent in their singing. The thing I like about DBT is that the lyrics always hit the right note, even when they're not being all that serious, like "I'd like to say I'm sorry, but we lived to tell about. And we lived to do a whole bunch more crazy stupid shit."

Also, on The Band and Canada. There's this local blues singer in Columbia that my mom used to work with, and I saw him on New Year's Eve a few years ago. He opened the show by saying, "I'm from the deep, deep south...of Canada." It's weird to think people from the land of snow could play like that and be believeable, but I guess The Band showed that it could be done, in spades.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

DBT- Their lyrics come off with just the right conviction. Its not that faux-southern thing that contemporary country is drowning in. I think DBT might be the best true rock band out there right now. I never hear them on the radio here though- wonder why? April 27- I'll be seeing them in BR.

The Band- Well they had one southerner and had spent time playing in the south so they definitely got influence from that. But being from Canada they don't necessarily have some of the same sentiments about the south that northeners and westerners have.

Also they fused soul, country, rock, and blues together which is what a lot of southern rock does. I don't think they were trying to emulate that southern feel- it just came about. And I don't think a song like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" would have been done as well as it was if it was done by a true southern band.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Electrostatic said...

The Band Rocks! I'm from the south (Georgia to be exact) and there ain't much finer southern rock/blues/jazz/country than the Allman Bros. Band. However, The Band is still one of my personal favorites. It's hard to beat "Acadian Driftwood", "Up on Cripple Creek", and "When I Paint My Masterpiece". I beleive that Levon Helm really directed the Band to their southern sound. Not a fan of DBT, to me all their songs sound out of tune and out of time. BTW, Levon Helm is on an album produced by Paul Kennerly called "The Legend of Jesse James", which is a great album. Others on this album are:Charlie Daniels, Johnny Cash, Albert Lee, and Emylou Harris.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really love The Band...There's a tribute album coming out in January. All their songs are being covered by current artists...I have to say, they do a really great job.

You can check out the album at:

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

they DO do a good job. can't wait to hear the whole thing. how can i get the record?

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's going to be released on Jan. 30, 2007.

So we have alittle while!

1:51 PM  

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