In 2015, I reckon Lynyrd Skynyrd are famous for three main reasons. In decreasing level of notoriety, we have the song Sweet Home Alabama, then the song Freebird, then the fact that a good portion of the band was killed I pane crash decades ago. Well, at least they’re the reasons why I have known about the band over the years. Then, I got obsessed with Drive-By Truckers, who made an entire double record concept album, loosely based on the history and legend of Lynyrd Skynyrd. And all of a sudden I knew they were a band to be taken more seriously. Which is why I listened to Second Coming.
At the time, the band would have had no idea that they were opening Second Helping with the biggest single they would ever record. A song that has lived on for the decades since. Which is great, because Sweet home Alabama is a great song, and much better than the surface level conflict that red necks used to claim it as their own. When racism in the south lead to an Alabama church being bombed and three young black girls being killed in the explosion, Neil Young wrote Birmingham, venting his outrage at the situation.
Sweet Home Alabama was Skynyrd’s own response to that after recording in Alabama and noticing that there was more to the state than red neck racists. And as Patterson Hood said in Drive-By Truckers awesome song Ronnie and Neil, Lynyrd Skynyrd, “met some real fine people, not them racists pieces of shit”. A song about the good to be found in Alabama, it’s also just a catchy as shit rock song that’s way better than some of its dirt bag fans.
Then, it’s time for some dirty, sleazy blues with I Need You. Slow and deliberate, wringing the blood and sweat out of every single note, I Need You is a less is more kind of song, where the restraint makes it feel like there’s so much happening under the surface. Too much to let loose, or else the song might run rampant.
With its slide guitar and honky tonk piano, the southern nature of Skynyrd’s southern rock is turned up to 11 on Don’t Ask Me No Questions and it’s pretty great. But the rock gets its time to shine on Workin’ For MCA, when the triple guitar attack gets to show off a little. Wailing solos are never a surprise from the band who wrote Freebird, but that lack of surprise never makes them any less enjoyable.
Never has a swamp sounded as fun and full of good times than on Swamp Music. This is Lynyrd Skynyrd at the party startin’, moonshine swillin’ best. It might be basic 12 bar blues at its core, but Ronnie Van Zant’s vocals are having too much of a ball for anyone to ever get the blues from this one.
Lryically, The Needle and the Spoon has nothing in common with Sweet Home Alabama, but musically, it might as well be Sweet Home Alabama Redux. But despite that similarity, it never feels like a rehash or cheap copy. All the while being just as immediately catchy and toe tapping as its much more famous twin.
Second Helping makes it obvious why dumb red necks love Lynyrd Skynyrd so much. It’s the kind of music perfect for clutching a beer can in one hand and your bro’s neck in the other while you yell sing at each other. The only problem is, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Second Helping are much more than that. They’re also amazing musicians, top rate song writers and smart dudes who actually have something to say. No matter how low an opinion you may have of what you think Lynyrd Skynyrd fans are, get past that. Because the music is so much better than that dick head fan you’re picturing in your head.