Outlaws – “Dixie Highway” CD / 2 LP (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
Southern Rock. Famed in the 70s thanks to legendary bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band and later ZZ Top, Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet, the legacy of which is still felt through some of these groups, although its wider influence is inherent in many other rock bands of today. Starting in 1967, the Outlaws have flown the Southern rock banner for almost 45 years, proudly earning the name ‘The Florida Guitar Army’ thanks to their 3 pronged guitar assault, amply demonstrated on their famous epic ‘Green Grass And High Tides’ which ranks alongside ‘Freebird’ and ‘Highway Song’ as a Southern rock monument. Although most of their original line up has passed away over the years, co founders Henry Paul (guitar / vocals) and drummer Monte Yoho remain and through them, the essence of the Outlaws still continues, and is amply reflected in this amazing 11th album, which is probably the first genuine Southern rock release in many a year. Named after the original pre 1920s road that connected Chicago to Miami, the name was deliberately chosen by Paul and Yoho as a dedication to fallen Outlaw Frank O’Keefe (bass, guitar, vocals) who passed away in 1995, and as explained by Paul ‘… was from Chicago originally… (and) in a band with four strong songwriters, Frank’s contributions are conspicuously overlooked in Outlaws history. He was a sensational musician, an integral part of the group…this is Frank O’Keefe’s curtain call.” Indeed, one of the tracks, ‘Windy City Blue’, was written by O’Keefe in 1972 and has remained unrecorded until now while the remaining 10 tracks have no doubt been inspired by the Outlaws first 3 albums reflecting ‘.. the band’s true heritage..’ according to Paul. Self produced and arranged by the band themselves, “Dixie Highway” echoes the journey, from the good times to fallen comrades by Paul and Yoho, emotionally captured in the lyrics and authentically played in true Southern style by the musicians, which includes the classic set up of 3 guitarists, 2 drummers and an additional keyboardist! Taking no prisoners from the off, opener ‘Southern Rock Will Never Die’ is nothing short of an anthem, passionately driven by those beautiful guitars outpouring Southern and country melodies as the lyrics grieve out the respect for fallen Southern heroes like Ronnie Van Zant, Duane and Greg Allman, and of course legendary founder Outlaws Frank O’Keefe, Billy Jones and Hughie Thomasson. Keeping up the heartbreak is the country rock blues of ‘Endless Ride’ with its incredible slide work melding so passionately with the melting chorus, and not forgetting the cowpoke drawl of ‘…ridin’ off into the sunset, beneath the burning sky…you’re just another shooting star..’ until the ‘The Florida Guitar Army’ takes off and man, you just know what they mean by intense as the overload from those axes starts to hook, wail and dance you into a total spin. Going back to the 70s, when a lot of the Outlaws songs were written about the rock n roll lifestyle, ‘Lonesome Boy From Dixie’ brings all that touring mileage to bear in its upbeat, swanky grooves, background church organ keys and even more triple guitar work unloading like six guns as the pumping energy of the song unfolds. ‘Windy City Blue’, with its deep bass, funky vibe and cool guitars tell the tale in magnificent 70s style, authentically capturing that era both in sound as well as lyrically as the twin drummers pump out their beats as the tempo gets faster along with the equally racing guitars in true Outlaws dueling soloing style – brilliant!!! Closing in a true Southern splendor of country acoustics and slide guitar ‘Macon Memories’ (the Allman’s home base) beautifully tells how it all began, tenderly echoing the spirit of the genre’s founders through country drawls and soft harmonies in a sound from a bygone era. But thanks to the Outlaws, who’ve still got the fire, true Southern rock will never die. A masterpiece.