Zach Williams and the Reformation
Admit it. Every rock fan has a favorite Southern rock song or band. We've all jammed to "Freebird" at some point.
Nearly 40 years after the peak of Southern rock, with something called Lynyrd Skynyrd milking the legendary band's namesake for all its worth, Gregg Allman's health woes, and the Black Crowes' regular announcements of indefinite hiatus, it would appear the genre is in full disintegration mode.
There are a few young revivalists out there working to keep Southern rock relevant. Zach Williams and the Reformation is one group that is blowing a heavy breath into the decaying beast. They are providing a "Southern Offering" to the modern music scene in June 2011.
Zach Williams put together the Reformation in Jonesboro, Ark., in 2008. He and other veterans of the local music circuit joined over a mutual appreciation for the rock music that draws heavily on the rhythm and blues, country, folk and soul sounds of the southeast.
Zach Williams and the Reformation released their debut album, "Electric Revival," in 2009 and have spent the past couple of years touring the U.S. They have also played for the Armed Forces in Japan and Guam.
Unlike the Reformation's debut album, for which Williams wrote all the music and lyrics, "Southern Offering" is a collaborative effort from everyone in the band. Williams wrote all of the lyrics for this album, while the band handled all the music. Williams says it is a deeper, more robust effort. "I'm excited about 'A Southern Offering,' because you can hear the different influences of each band member - from Black Sabbath to Bad Company - and the subject matter is more mature," Williams said.
Zach Williams and the Reformation look more 1970s than 2000s, with their long hair and beards, but their music incorporates both recent music and that of years old. The influences heard most clearly on "Southern Offering" are classics Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers, but also more recent Southern rock saviors, The Black Crowes.
Looking at the track listing for "Southern Offering," it is immediately apparent Zach Williams and the Reformation are rock and rollers. Song titles like "Moving On" and "Rock 'N' Roll Me" are close duplicates of classic rock hits. Assumptions that "Motels and Highways" is a song about life on the road would be correct.
From the first licks of the album, on "Gravy Train," it's apparent that "Southern Offering" is a guitar-heavy effort. The Reformation features three different guitarists on the album, with one, Robby Rigsbee, also offering some bending slide riffs. The guitar solos range from hard-hitting to swampy to soaring.
Not only does Williams look like a combination of The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant, he sounds like the two men, too. He's a magnetic frontman with vocals infused with soul. Williams said he channeled the trials and tribulations of everyday life into the writing process of "Southern Offering." Any emotion that wasn't already expressed in the lyrics comes through in Williams' voice. "Sky Full of Treasures," a quiet, acoustic guitar song at the end of the album, showcases both of these talents in one piece.
Sometimes "Southern Offering" sacrifices lyrical content for choruses that are repeated a little too often. "Rock 'n' roll me while you stone me" may sound silly, but remember, many of classic rock's hit songs are built on this concept (see "rock and roll hoochie coo" and other nonsensical lines).
For those looking for a refreshing take on Southern rock, Zach Williams and the Reformation's "Southern Offering" is a welcome one. Even for those who think of Southern rock being an assault on the ears may even find themselves won over by this updated expression of Southern sound.
Zach Williams and the Reformation are online at http://www.zwrnation.com.