Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stuck in My Head: Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Floyd"

(Editor's Note: Stuck in my Head is an occasional feature about whatever song happens to be running around incessantly in my head at the moment.)

So it's a full month before Lynyrd Skynyrd's latest record, "God & Guns," hits stores, but I've been listening to this track almost non-stop for the past couple of weeks and I've got to talk about it. Hopefully they won't mind a little early praise.

I wasn't really expecting any surprises from this record, but when I hit the seventh track, co-written by guitarist John 5, I got one. For those unfamiliar, John 5 (real name, John Lowery) isn't exactly the first guy you'd think of when thinking about folks to write songs with Lynyrd Skynyrd. His major playing credits come as guitarist for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. But when you find out that he was inspired to pick up his Telecaster by watching Buck Owens and Roy Clark, it makes a little more sense. "Floyd" is one of several songs John 5 co-wrote on the record, and, for me, it's the standout track.

Not to worry for Skynyrd fans, though, you won't find any chugging metal riffs on this song. "Floyd" (and all the songs John 5 worked on) are still very much Skynyrd tunes. Lyrically, the song follows a country/southern rock legacy of songs like Jerry Reed's "Amos Moses" and Charlie Daniels' "Legend of Woolley Swamp," which tell tales of the strange character that lives in the swamp and doesn't care for visitors that much.

After some sounds of the swamp, the song settles into an acoustic country-blues mode as it introduces and describes the main character Floyd. But the real kick in the pants comes when the chorus hits. Electric guitars wail out like swamp demons, while the "aiyaiyaiy" vocal harmonies lend both a sense of creepiness and craziness to the story. The huge hook on the chorus can't be denied or ignored, and, for me, it's one of the most powerful moments we've heard from Skynyrd since the 1970s.

On hearing the song, my wife described it as "a Rob Zombie song if Charlie Daniels sang it." I can't think of a better description, so I'll steal hers. It's certainly a little different for the band, but at the same time, not too far off the mark, either.

Fans that want the usual from Lynyrd Skynyrd should certainly still be pleased with "God & Guns," which I'll review here in its entirety nearer the release date. But those expecting the "same old, same old," may also find some pleasant surprises, "Floyd" being chief among them.

Pre-order "God & Guns."

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