Don't even mention the words "dead horse" to Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke he gets pissed.
Making it perfectly clear that the current incarnation of the iconic Southern rock band that brought us "Free Bird" is no knockoff, Medlocke vehemently issues a challenge to any naysayers.
"For anyone who says we're beatin' a dead horse, I say come see us play live. If that's a dead horse playin' live . . . well, I'd like to see a horse that's awake."
Scheduled to perform on Thursday, August 31.
Not a perfect metaphor, but the point is clear even though the Skynyrd lineup has spanned four decades and undergone more than a few changes, these guys still have the will to rock. The group currently has two founding members, Gary Rossington and Billy Powell, as well as the late Ronnie Van Zant's youngest brother, Johnny, and a medley of Southern rock veterans (including Medlocke, formerly of Blackfoot) fleshing out the rest of the sound.
"It's not a cover band. It's not a tribute band," Medlocke says. "The roots are still there. You've got the heart and soul of the band."
Luckily, there are a few notable recent events that support Medlocke's claim of Lynyrd Skynyrd legitimacy. The band can now boast an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Skynyrd's also working on a new album with a tentative release date in 2007, and they've been touring all summer.
By all accounts, this band is working hard. But today's Skynyrd still may have a little less bite than the Skynyrd of yesteryears. Gone are the days of politically savvy, subtly scathing lyrics like those tucked safely away in "Sweet Home Alabama." Instead, the band's most recent commercial success, "Red, White & Blue," features more toe-the-line-type lyrics. The song's catchy, but definitely lacks the political punch that Ronnie Van Zant's words occasionally packed.
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"We don't use the band as a platform to speak about the pros and cons of the government," Medlocke says. "Them fans are the bottom line . . . they paid to see you sing a song, not give your opinion."
But Medlocke still professes some ideas about the good ol' U.S. of A.
"I feel like the country has lost its balls," Medlocke says, then politely notes his opinions are his own, and not necessarily representative of the entire band. "We're giving our country away to anybody and everybody who wants to take it."
Well said, Mr. Medlocke now will you play "Free Bird"?