Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.

This is the Bucket Beats List.

Photo courtesy Ben Upham

Photo courtesy Ben Upham

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album, ‘(Pronounced ‘Leh-‘Nérd ‘Skin-‘Nérd)’, is widely the considered to be the birth of what is often referred to today as ‘Southern Rock’. The irony? The band, the godfather of the subgenre, never submitted to the ideal. In fact, years later Ron Van Zant would go on to say that ‘Southern Rock’ was a “dead label”.

But can you blame the music industry for trying? The group hailed from Jacksonville, was discovered in Atlanta, and one of the eight songs on their debut album, entitled ‘Mississippi Kid’, is about going to possibly start trouble one state over in Alabama.

Lynyrd Skynyrd '(Pronounced 'Leh-'Nérd 'Skin-'Nérd)'Hell, even the riffs they licked seem to have a certain drawl to them.

But that’s neither here nor there. Perhaps one of the reason Lynyrd Skynyrd did not want the label of ‘Southern Rock’ was the bum rap the area was getting with racial tensions soaring. Their works, at least “Pronounced”, as the album is referred to in the shorthand, was decidedly apolitical. ‘Things Goin’ On’ is about as political as the album gets, and the song references social inequality rather than racial.

No matter what you call it, though, “Pronounced” is blissfully awesome. There really isn’t a weak track on the album and the dynamic range is almost mind-boggling until you consider what an asset bringing in three guitars can be. Like a complex wine — there’s an odd analogy for the band branded with the simpleton south — “Pronounced” has such a wide variety of flavors. There’s blues, there’s rock, and there’s country. And that’s not even mentioning the piano-bopping saloon rhythm of ‘Things Goin’ On’ which is perhaps the most intriguing song on the record.

Lynyrd Skynyrd combines old, folksy toons with a new age kick. It’s a spaghetti western with a kick, a cowboy anthem for the urban man. It’s the kind of stark, ironic juxtaposition that comments unapologetically on society that you might expect from The Velvet Underground, not a band that just two songs earlier is strumming about getting into deep waters over a taken woman.

Three songs LATER, of course, comes the juggernaut smash hit that is ‘Free Bird’. It’s unconventional — at the time, a 9-minute track on the radio was unheard of — and transitions from the Van Zant’s soothing Who-like vocals into a mind-melting, frenetic guitar assault on the earlobes. It’s almost as if the band had, midway through the track, been accused of being novices with their instruments and challenged to prove people wrong. As far as a fireworks show goes, it’s the grand finale everyone anticipates for the duration of the show.

And while ‘Free Bird’ is undoubtedly the track that propelled the band into the ethos of legend, for my money, the best Lynyrd Skynyrd has and always will be ‘Simple Man’. How a song could have such a slow, methodical tempo and, at the same time, come at you with so much heft seems physically impossible. It’s also Skynyrd’s best song because, while on so many occassions the tandem trio of guitars shines through, it’s the one song that really displays the talent that sat behind the drum set, Robert Burns.

So maybe it’s southern rock or maybe it isn’t. But you definitely don’t have to be FROM the south to appreciate the music. Quite frankly, all you have to do is have at least one working ear.

Favorite tracks?
3. Poison Whiskey
2. Free Bird
1. Simple Man

Least favorite tracks?
3. Tuesday Is Gone
2. I Ain’t The One
1. Mississippi Kid

Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
Hell. Yes.

When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for social media shenanigans!