Shredonistic guitarmageddon. That’s a phrase that neatly sums up ‘Southern Native’, the first release by southern rock veterans Blackfoot in over two decades. Curiously, bandleader Rickey Medlocke doesn’t play a single note. He’s too busy with Lynyrd Skynyrd to commit to a full-blown Blackfoot reincarnation, it seems, so he opts for a cameo in their reboot. He’s confined himself to the role of producer, and recruited a new generation of Jacksonville natives to record under the Blackfoot banner. Is-it-still-the-same-ship questions aside, this explains why the album doesn’t sound quite so tired as certain other post-zenith releases by seventies guitar heavyweights. In fact, it’s as tight as leather chaps in a heatwave.
‘Southern Native’ is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from an old-name rock act given a fresh tank of gas. There’s enough soaring speed-solos and shameless guitar-noodling to give the avid air-guitarist a full-finger workout. The lyrics are big on whiskey, women, bikes and brotherhood, and even in this day and age drummer Matt Anastasi isn’t afraid to use a cowbell. It’s a slickly-produced safe bet, very much in the mould of Medlocke’s ‘God & Guns’ with Skynyrd in 2009.
But it doesn’t turn a dead eye to the last two decades of guitar music. You’ll find echoes of Rival Sons and Black Stone Cherry in the mix, especially in the more riff-based ‘Call Of A Hero’ and ‘Satisfied Man’. Even a little touch of the Chris Cornell in the chugtastic title track.
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The album has the token radio-friendly ballad, “Everyman”, which takes equally from Bon Jovi and The Allman Brothers to showcase Tim Rossi’s honey-whiskey vocals. There’s ‘Diablo Loves Guitar’, a flamenco instrumental for those fellas who prefer their shredding on nylon strings. Then there’s a surprise turned-up-to-eleven cover of Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’, complete with a not-so-subtle Skynyrd shout-out. It covers the full range of classic rock prerequisites like Medlocke is ticking off a checklist.
With Medlocke as their flame-passing mentor, the new boys of Blackfoot do a grand ol’ job of replicating the electric energy of their predecessors. It’s perfectly predictable, but a perfect fit for the Blackfoot legacy and a treat for any fan of the hard rock glory days. It’s music to drive fast to and battle post-apocalyptic cowboys with. So whilst Blackfoot aren’t technically ‘back’ they sure as hell are bad. In the bad-means-good outlaw rocker kinda way.
‘Southern Native’ is available now on Loud & Proud Records
This Blackfoot article was written by Matt George Lovett, a GIGsoup contributor