Various Artists

Skynyrd Frynds

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This Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute album is a high-profile effort, executive produced by the band's Gary Rossington and featuring a flock of major rock-influenced country artists. For the most part, those performers display a knowledge of Lynyrd Skynyrd's work and an affection for it. Unfortunately, the least impressive cover leads off the album. The country band Alabama might seem like the ideal interpreter of "Sweet Home Alabama," but the group clearly is not comfortable with the song. This is apparent in the gimmicky arrangement even before they rewrite the second verse, but their trouble with the words is a big problem. Apparently, lead singer Randy Owen doesn't want to praise racist Alabama Governor George Wallace or sing, "Watergate does not bother me, does your conscience bother you?" because there is now an innocuous verse concerning Alabama football replacing the original words. Things improve, however, with Travis Tritt's take on "Don't Ask Me No Questions" and Sammy Kershaw turns in a Western swing arrangement on "I Know a Little." The album's high point is Steve Earle's version of "What's Your Name?," a song he for one feels no need to clean up. Just as it began on a false note, the album closes on a weak spot, Wynonna's cover of "Free Bird." She can't quite figure out whether to abandon the song's arena rock legacy and turn it into a ballad of romantic farewell, and ends up undercutting its power without adding any real intimacy. Still, there are enough good performances here to demonstrate Lynyrd Skynyrd's influence on contemporary country.

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