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Van Zant - Get Right With the Man
By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

Harness the energy of brotherly love. That’s a good place to start. Then capture the spirit of individual careers sure to leave a legacy from being part of two chart-grabbing and hard-hitting bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special. Keep the connection and book the studio. Then set it loose and point a laser at it. The recorded outcome is tough, true and hard rocking. For Donnie and Johnny Van Zandt, their trek to the bruising side of the charts is complete on Get Right With The Man (Columbia). And many agree. The album scored praise for the highest selling country debut album of 2005.

And what an album it is. But, for those who don’t want to read on, those on their way out the door to buy this – 4 Stars. 

For others: a little recapped history. Respected in music circles for their robust profiles, Donnie’s known as the founding member of 38 Special, the hard-cutting rock band he formed in ’75; and Johnny’s been the lead vocalist with Lynyrd Skynyrd since their ’87 reformation. Both are the brothers of Ronnie Van Zant, the founding force of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who died in a plane crash while on the way between shows on October 20, 1977. Before arriving at this latest album, Donnie and Johnny released two efforts, Brother to Brother in 1998 and Van Zant 11 in 2001. Those albums not only claimed fan interest, but kindled a brotherly wish. That wish was maybe not to step away from their recognized hard-belted sweaty rock influences, but, rather, move towards country -- or as Johnny shares at their web site:” People ask us if we’ve gone country and I tell ‘em we ain’t gone country. We were born country.”

And how right they are. With a loud, brash and harder-edge than maybe the purists will like, the boys and the band deliver. As perfect partners to the hair and hat on offer, there are blue-collar anthems, hard-pounded, thinking, heart-on-sleeve gems, a peppering of Southern rock respect for God and country, and a liberal dose of raw and compulsive barn burners. This is a blast –wicked, primed, and on ignition, a big, bang boom.

The explosion starts right from the first cut. “Takin’ Up Space”, one of only four songs not written by the duo on the 11 track set, is a workers-tinged anthem that shares it’s sentiment in the lyrics: “ Life’s too short to live in caution/ but life’s too long not to live at all. And,” Nobody Gonna Tell Me What Me What To Do” – ‘You might tell me where to go, but their ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do’ – is a ballad pace tale of defiance and own rule attitude. Both knockout tunes.

Across tracks that gain their swing, push and pull from steel, fiddle, keyboards, drums and guitars, the album winds over some touching balladry. The debut single “Help Somebody” spotlights not only a strong song choice (Kip Raines/Jeffrey Steele), but a vocal honesty that draws you into the story-line of community and empathy with those who need some humanity. The boys work a treat on the song, as they do on the touring related “Things I Miss The Most”. Contrasted with life on the road with its shadowed bars and hurried phone calls to home, to that place where the kids are and the dog barks in the yard, to a field where a lone tractor waits, the song touches the familiar in anybody with a motel key and a guitar case.

The obvious quality with this album is that it’s not a cobbled effort of indulgent and yelled lyrics and screaming guitar solos, often the musical tattoo branding similar outfits. Rather, here it’s crafted music relying on lyrical style, harmony, playing, and thought-responsive tunes. Simply: it’s an album for the collection.

The best tracks include those mentioned and the chorus inviting “I Know My History”; the salvation-seeking “I Can’t Help Myself” and “Been There Done That”, a revealing ode to honesty and history.

Hard-pounded and with a soft centre, patriotic, family values and God-fearing – how many albums offer that variety? Get right with the man and find out.

Get Right With The Man song list:

To purchase the CD online just click on the album cover on the left. 
1. Takin' Up Space 
2. Noobody Gonna Tell Me What to Do 
3. Sweet Mama 
4. Help Somebody 
5. Things I Miss the Most 
6. I Know My History 
7. I Can't Help Myself 
8. I'm Doin' Alright 
9. Lovin' You 
10. Plain Jane 
11. Been There Done That 

Related Links:
- Official Site

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