Graded on a Curve: Outlaws, (S/T)

Before we delve into the pros and cons of Southern Rock band the Outlaws, we should probably get the haters out of the way first. The most withering diss of said band was delivered by the rock crit Robert Christgau, who wrote, “Outlaws my ass—I bet they’d punch a time clock if it’d make the tour go smoother. Combining the most digestible elements of the Eagles and the Allmans without ever hinting that there might be a teensy bit of genius or even originality beneath the surface—because there isn’t—this is now the hottest new rock group in America. How depressing.”

I love the “punch a time clock” bit, because there’s no denying these Tampa, Florida boys sure were as slick as an icy set of stairs. Had they been real outlaws, they’d have probably specialized in corporate crime. But methinks Mr. Christgau fails to tell the whole story. True, their big hit “There Goes Another Love Song” sounds like the unholy spawn of a mating of Dan Fogelberg and the Eagles, but it sure is catchy. And aside from the aforementioned tune, an additional couple of songs on their eponymous 1975 debut stick.

The Outlaws boasted a three-guitar line-up just like Florida contemporaries Lynyrd Skynyrd, and all three of said guitarists—Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones, and Henry Paul—go “Free Bird” on the album’s epic closing track, “Green Grass & High Tides.” Weighing in at 9:46, “Green Grass & High Tides” is not only faster out of the starting gate than “Free Bird,” but makes said Skynyrd classic sound like a brief warm-up. If what you want more than anything in life is a swarm of guitarists throwing down for a real long time, this is the hymn for you.

What else? Oh yeah, the harmonies on “Stay With Me” make it every bit as good as any early Eagles’ song I’ve ever heard, although on second thought that comment could be classified under the heading “backhanded compliment.” “Song in the Breeze” also boosts some swell vocal harmonies, as well as some fine and dandy guitar work. Unlike Lynyrd Skynyrd, who would stomp your face as soon as look at you, the Outlaws are tender buds. Just listen to “It Follows from Your Heart,” which opens like a rip-off of Bobby Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” before turning into a pretty little number that wouldn’t sound out of place on a J.D. Souther LP, which makes sense seeing as how Souther, that talentless hack, sings harmony on the damn thing.

But back to the Eagles. Who may as well have written the perky “Cry No More,” if not “Waterhole,” which is a bona fide hoedown of a tune. That said, Henley, Frey, and Company could have penned “Keep Prayin’,” no matter how hard it pretends to be a Skynyrd tune. Features some fetchin’ guitar, though. As for “Knoxville Girl,” it’s a delightful romp that deserves to be better known. This is cosmic country if ever I’ve heard it, and comes complete with some badass guitar playing, heaps of great vocal harmonies, and a melody guaranteed to bring joy, although not as much joy as the sight of your favorite pot dealer, complete with angel wings, descending unto you from the heavens bearing an ounce of some impossibly expensive strain of marijuana. There are even some wonderful whoops and yeehahs. It’s good stuff.

Say what you will about the Outlaws, and believe me there are plenty of less than flattering things to be said about the Outlaws, they served up a true Southern Rock rave-up with “Green Grass & High Tides.” The Outlaws were one of the very first bands I saw live—some tone deaf fool had coupled them with Heart—and I swear that night’s rendition of “Green Grass” went on for two hours, easy. Then again, that could have been the LSD. Anyway, on the album version a guitarist jabs you in the ribs with one very pointy flurry of notes, before the trusty triumvirate blow you out of your shoes with pure guitar bluster. It’s a derangement of all the senses, to quote the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who would have probably fainted from sheer horror had he lived to hear the number.

So yeah. Mock on, if you will. Lord knows that most of the Outlaw’s songs were derivative, and aside from “Hurry Sundown” off the 1977 LP of the same name they failed to deliver on the promise that so depressed poor benighted Robert Christgau. The Outlaws never became the new Lynyrd Skynyrd, or even the new Marshall Tucker Band for that matter. Hell, they never even attained to the status of .38 Special or Molly Hatchet. But let me just say this—“Knoxville Girl” justifies their very existence, and like it or loathe it, “Green Grass & High Tides” is Southern Rock at its long-stemmed best. And you can put that green grass in your bong and smoke it.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B-

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text