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Music Review: Lynyrd Skynyrd – God & Guns: Special Edition

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Now there's no point in rehashing the old "is it or isn't it" Lynyrd Skynyrd argument, even if they are now down to one surviving original member. It's good enough for Deep Purple these days and, if truth be told, this and the preceding Vicious Cycle album are two of the finest southern rock albums you're likely to hear, regardless of provenance.

With guitarist Gary Rossington the sole survivor, and reeling from the latest in a long line of Lynyrd Skynyrd tragedies, the band have knuckled down and put together an excellent album that sees them, understandably, mellowing out and reflecting on life, but without losing the essence of who they are. Not that they still don't know how to rock!

Something that's apparent on the opening, hard rocking "Still Unbroken," a song co-written by the late Hughie Thomasson who, although he'd left Lynyrd Skynyrd to reform The Outlaws post Vicious Cycle, is much missed. Then it's on to the laid back, countryfied "Simple Life" and into the boogie rock of "Little Thing Called You." By this stage you know this is going to be solid, prime Lynyrd Skynyrd. There's a handful of songs co-written by former Marilyn Manson / Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 but, fear not, there's no industrial goth beats here. In fact, "Southern Ways," one of his credits, is pure country rock!

The rock gets ramped up on "Skynyrd Nation," a fist in the air anthem for the fans who've kept them going through the hard times and tragedies. There's the latest in a long line of Lynyrd Skynyrd storytelling tunes stretching back to Second Helping's "The Ballad Of Curtis Loew" on "Floyd," which sees Rob Zombie making a guest appearance.

They get to let off steam on "That Ain't My America," a theme revisited on the title track, "Gods & Guns," the sole outside song on the album. The album closes with "Gifted Hands," a tribute to the late Lynyrd Skynyrd piano player Billy Powell. Both he and bassist Ean Evans, who also passed away recently, perform on the album, although there's no breakdown of who does what on each song.

If you go for the deluxe edition, you get a second CD with three studio tracks, all co-written and produced by Trey Bruce, the country music songwriter with three Billboard country chart Number One singles to his name – "Look Heart, No Hands" and "Whisper My Name" by Randy Travis, and "How Your Love Makes Me Feel" by Diamond Rio. They're all excellent, especially "Hobo Kinda Man," and you can't help but wonder what a full album would have been like.

Things finish off with three live tracks from a 2007 concert, in the shape of "Red, White & Blue," "Call Me The Breeze" and "Sweet Home Alabama," all culled from a projected 2010 live DVD release. Not many bands of their vintage are still making music this good, less as though they still find magic in a song.

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