Rock Reads: Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock by Scott B. Bomar

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

For some, phrases like fire on the mountain, gator country, hold on loosely and ramblin' man are far more than descriptors or everyday words that got turned into song titles; they are simple but potent reminders of one of music's most distinct golden eras, when the genre known as Southern rock ruled the airwaves. A time when there was a bit of mystery to the scene, especially for those not familiar with the South.

Who are these wild-eyed southern boys, all tatted down with psychedelic mushroom symbols and riding the train to Grinderswitch? With this book Bomar answers all the questions and then some, beginning with a few chapters on the artists who laid the groundwork for Southern rock, from Elvis to Leadbelly, from Buddy Holly to Little Richard, and more generalized, Memphis soul.

There's always been a debate about what exactly constitutes Southern rock but here Bomar posits that the term was coined to refer to the Allman Brothers Band, and accordingly they get far more in depth coverage here than anyone else.

Entire chapters are devoted to pre-ABB groups the Allman Joys and the Hour Glass, and readers will pick up lots of trivia about the band, some of it surprising, like that it was Gregg Allman who initially taught his ace-guitarist brother Duane to play.

Bomar has avoided just reciting a bunch of facts here though; a liberal use of quotes from band members allows the story to play out in their own words. Bomar uses this style throughout, touching on subjects like the Muscle Shoals sound and Phil Walden's Capricorn Records along with all the bands you'd expect: The Marshall Tucker Band, 38 Special, Elvin Bishop, the Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, the Charlie Daniels Band and of course the "other" big daddy of Southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Lesser-known groups like Point Blank and Hydra are included too and the book comes up to date with coverage of acts like the Drive-by Truckers, Bo Bice and the North Mississippi Allstars, suggesting that Southern rock is not dead just because its heyday has passed.

As the title indicates, this coffee-table style book is fully illustrated; there are a few graphics of posters and ticket stubs and the like but mostly the pages are packed with rarely-seen photographs.

A real treasure trove for fans of Southern rock, Southbound is also a great primer for those who enjoy classics like "Flirtin' with Disaster" and "Freebird" and want to dig a little deeper.

Order your copy here.

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