Van Zant Red White and Blue (Live) Review
Generally speaking, when an artist releases a new album it’s followed by a tour and you can look forward to heading to one of their shows to see them live. Not in the case of Van Zant’s soon to be released Red White & Blue (Live) album, however. And that’s because this is a previously lost live recording of a concert which happened a decade ago.
Van Zant, as you may know, consists of brothers Johnny and Donnie Van Zant. Their late older brother Ronnie was of course the lead vocalist and chief songwriter of Lynryd Skynryd. Ronnie had always wanted to record a country record, but his untimely death prevented that from ever happening. Inspired by this, Johnny and Donnie got together over 20 years ago and delved into the family’s country-tinged roots to do just that.
Here’s the thing. Van Zant only ever toured once, and only one show of that tour was ever recorded – by Donnie’s longtime 38 Special bandmate, bassist Larry Junstrom (LJ). Although the plan was to release it at some point, the recording was somehow forgotten about until recently. After fans had repeatedly asked for another Van Zant project, LJ reminded the brothers of the recording’s existence and now it finally gets to see the light of day.
So, it’s January 28 2006 at Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia and Van Zant kick their show off with the barnstorming Takin’ Up Space. It’s that kind of punch the air southern rock anthem which anyone who has a soft spot for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s material could instantly hook into. The band then head off in a musical journey taking in original Van Zant recordings plus some old favourites from .38 Special and of course Lynryd Skynryd along the way.
All the usual southern rock and country themes are present and correct here. From love of family, pride in country and belief in God, to guns, girls and having a good time, the Van Zant’s ticked all the right boxes. These guys have always worn their blue collars with pride and that’s probably best reflected in Plain Jain. This is an absolute gem of a song and is, I suppose, what you could describe as being a blue-collar southern rock love song: no nonsense, down to earth and full of heart. Now, as much as I’m drawn to the up-tempo rockers on the album, there are some absolutely stunning ballads in there too. Things I Miss The Most is probably the pick of the lot and deals with the difficulty of being away from home, and reminds us that life on the road for musicians also has its downsides.
As a longtime Lynyrd Skynyrd fan the last two songs of the performance are a bit special. Y’all know Call Me The Breeze and Sweet Home Alabama, so I don’t have to tell you how tremendous they are, and they bring the concert to a suitably roof bustin’ barn burnin’ climax.
Obviously without actually being at the concert itself or having the benefit of video footage to watch, we can only rely upon how the concert sounded from this recording to gauge what the experience was like. And I’ll tell you what, the Van Zant’s sounded like they were having a ball from first to last. And judging by the whooping’ and a hollerin’ from the audience, they were having a helluva good time too. If only Donnie could come out of retirement and Van Zant might ride again…
Set your inner redneck free and run with the big dogs. Pre-order your copy at the link below. It’s a southern rock classic.
1 Takin’ Up Space
2 Ain’t Nobody Gonna Tell Me What To Do
3 Sweet Mama
4 Wild Eyed Southern Boys (originally performed by 38 Special)
5 Things I Miss The Most
6 I Know My History
7 Help Somebody
8 Plain Jane
9 I Can’t Help Myself
10 I’m Doin’ Alright
11 Red White & Blue
12 My Kind Of Country
13 Call Me The Breeze (originally performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd)
14 Sweet Home Alabama (originally performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd)