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Liner Notes: Southern Rock

WMRE

October 17th, 2011

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By Nick Bradley

I’ll start this first column by first introducing the theme. My show (Monday 10pm) is a journey through rock history, with each segment encompassing a different era and subgenre of rock as we know it today. In this column, I’ll go further in-depth about the music that I play on each week’s segment.

So, let’s talk about southern rock.

Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of southern rock. You’ve definitely heard it before – lots of rock classics fall under the umbrella of “southern rock.” But what exactly is it?

Well, southern rock is the illegitimate love child of country/western and rock ‘n’ roll. It was conceived in a bus station bathroom somewhere between Nashville and New Orleans and grew up with its pappy on the bayou. Which is to say, of course, that southern rock is a genre based in the blues but colored by the rootsy, Americana themes of country/western.

Southern rock made its first appearance in the late 1960s, with bands such as Canned Heat and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but didn’t become popular (relatively popular, that is) until the mid-1970s. It was popularized by bands such as the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top and continued to influence rock music – especially in the homeland rock movement – well into the 1980s.

Stylistically, southern rock places heavy importance on the electric guitar in much the same way as the Chicago blues do. It relies on harmonies between the lead guitar and the rhythm guitar as well as a strong piano and bass, er, base. Southern rock musicians were often virtuosos at their respective instruments and, as a result, the structure of the typical southern rock song consists of a short main riff and chorus, with the majority of the song being solos by the various band members.

Southern rock lyrics often focus less on morals or conveying a message and more on the different events that made up daily life for a rambling musician in the South. If you focus on the lyrics, it’s easy to imagine yourself in a smoky, dimly lit bar, just wasting time until the next bus leaves and drinking to forget the girl who broke your heat.

If what you’ve read so far is piquing your interest in southern rock and you want to hear some, these are my recommendations:

* The Allman Brothers Band

* ZZ Top

* Stevie Ray Vaughan

* Lynyrd Skynyrd

* Canned Heat

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