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Outlaws: Dixie Highway

'The Florida Guitar Army' known as the Outlaws are one of the great names of the Southern Rock genre. Less celebrated that Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers and certainly less commercially popular. They've never bothered the charts in the UK and their highest placing US album was the eponymous 1975 debut. They've had more than their fair share of tragedy like most bands in the genre. Guitarist Billy jones killed himself, bassist Frank O'Keefe (to whom Dixie Highway is dedicated ) died of a drug overdose in 1995 and main man and 'Lone Outlaw' Hughie Thomasson passed away in 2007. Several thousand people (seemingly) have now been in the band which now includes singer/guitarist Henry Paula and drummer Monte Yoho from the band's classic era, Steve Grisham who was in the band from 1983-1986, guitarist Dale Oliver, and longtime bassist Randy Threet who used to participate in Paul's Blackhawk alongside keyboardist Dave Robbins. The line-up is rounded up by second drummer and percussionist Jaren Sorenson whilst happily illness free Billy Crain guests on guitars.

Dixie Highway is a joy from start to finish. An unrelenting, absolute joy. Contemplative in places, defiant in others but always with a guitar solo around the corner just to add some perspective. It's not very commercial, it's played by mostly guys in the dotage but it's bloody brilliant and easily the best album to be released under the Outlaws name in the last forty years although 2012's It's About Pride was a bit special as well.

The album is bookended by "Southern Rock Will Never Die" and "Macon Memories" both of which are paens to those who have come and gone before and the sense of loss but imbued with a sense of carrying on and keeping the genre/heritage going. The cynical might suggest that Henry Paul in particular is trying to align himself with Skynyrd, the Allmans, the Charlie Daniels Band et al in the way which the current Molly Hatchet band do but when the songs are this great who cares? Equally how else is a musician to cope with the loss of fellow road warriors and friends?

Dixie Highway is full of interesting twists and turns, not least the laid back title track, and the instrumental track "Showdown" - remember when quite a lot of albums used to change it up with an instrumental? There's a re-working of "Heavenly Blues" from 1977's Hurry Sundown which works really well as does a version of a Frank O'Keefe demo "Windy City's Blues". Henry Paul doesn't hog all the limelight and (I assume) Dave Robbins gets to flex the old vocal muscles on "Dark Horse Run". Paul himself finds extra gravitas in his vocals on the ultra tuneful "Overnight From Athens" and "Lonesome Boy From Dixie".

There can't be many more records left to come out of the original wave of Southern Rock bands given time's relentless passing and the Outlaws at least plan to go out in style.

Track Listing:
01. Southern Rock Will Never Die 5:18

02. Heavenly Blues 4:49

03. Dixie Highway 5:48

04. Overnight From Athens 4:23

05. Endless Ride 6:05

06. Dark Horse Run 5:48

07. Rattlesnake Road 4:08

08. Lonesome Boy From Dixie 4:48

09. Showdown (Instrumental) 3:10

10. Windy City’s Blue 5:44

11. Macon Memories 4:30

Added: March 19th 2020
Reviewer: Simon Bray
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 812
Language: english

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