It goes without saying that southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd have never been quite the same since a 1977 plane crash took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve & Cassie Gaines (along with the pilots and road manager Dean Kilpatrick). So it’s difficult, if not unfair, to compare their latest release Last of a Dyin’ Breed (or any of their recent releases) with their earlier work, because simply put, it’s not the same band. Guitarist Gary Rossington is the only remaining original member, and among the lengthy roster of former members are at least five more who have passed on since the crash.
Suffice it to say, then, that the reincarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd (with Ronnie’s brother Johnny covering the vocals since 1987) doesn’t so much serve the purpose of rekindling a career as preserving a tradition—a tradition of great music, particularly of solid, southern-fried, outlaw rock & roll. And in that regard, Last of a Dyin’ Breed does that quite well.
Avoiding the aforementioned comparisons, let’s just be clear on style: Lynyrd Skynyrd isn’t preserving tradition by staying in a complete time warp. Dyin’ Breed definitely reminds us of days gone by, but it’s also got a lot of modern-day southern rock elements. (“Homegrown”, in fact, sounds like it could have been lifted from a Nickelback record.) The first sound you hear on the opening title track is the signature slide guitar, letting you know without a doubt what you’re getting on this record. Must-listens on the record include the anthemic “Ready to Fly,” the soul-infused “Nothing Comes Easy,” and the jammin’ “Do It Up Right,” but the fact is that southern rock fans will enjoy pretty much all of the 15 tracks on this record.
The fact is, the whole Lynryrd Skynyrd reboot thing was a huge risk in and of itself, because given the band’s history and overall age, it could easily have evoked more pity than pride from the fans—as though a has-been band is coughing out its last breaths. But let’s just say Last of a Dyin’ Breed doesn’t convey that vibe at all. It’s well-produced, well-played, and well-written, and does the band proud. And the fact that the band’s post-hiatus stretch has now lasted longer than its pre-crash incarnation is testament to their ability to stand the test of time. As Judy Van Zant Jenness puts it on the Lynyrd Skynyrd History website, “Three decades after the tragedy that decimated the original Skynyrd band, millions of fans still buy the records, feel the songs, understand the power.” Dyin’ Breed will add value to any fan’s Skynyrd collection, and indeed the collections of southern rock fans everywhere.