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Rock Reads: Counting Down Southern Rock: The 100 Best Songs by C. Eric Banister

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

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With Banister's list of the 100 best Southern rock songs beginning with #100, it's a little tempting to flip to book's end to see what's listed at #1. But it's really not necessary; whether you're a scholar of the genre or just a casual fan, you can pretty well guess that the top slot would go to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," and here it does. Banister makes it clear in the book's introduction that these are his choices and based on his tastes, but most would probably agree with the bulk of his other picks for the Top 20 or so where he lists cuts like the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man," Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See" and the additional Skynyrd choice of "Sweet Home Alabama." Banister only considered artists that hail from the Southern states plus Texas and Oklahoma for his list, so if you wonder why a great Southern rock tune like Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken" is not included it is because Little Feat's hometown is Hollywood, California. But really the idea here is not so much to worry about rankings or such; Banister is extremely knowledgeable about the genre and his insightful page-or-so essay about each of his picks is where the real fun lies. The list is loaded with cuts from the bands you'd expect; the Allman Brothers, the Outlaws, 38 Special, Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, ZZ Top and the like, but even fervent Southern rock fans can find something unfamiliar here. Some of the lesser-known groups included are Hydra, Cooder Browne, Stillwater, Beaverteeth, Eric Quincy Tate, Cowboy, Potliquor and Point Blank. When you run across a band you don't recognize, like for example Blackhorse (not to be confused with Blackfoot, who are also on the list) Banister will get you acquainted quickly, and perhaps make you want to seek out the song in question. According to Banister's write up for Blackhorse's "Fox Huntin'," (#93, 1979) the band was "discovered" by the recently-deceased producer and ZZ Top manager Blll Ham and put out only one obscure album but continues to perform live today. For other songs Banister's fact-filled essays might reveal instrument and recording studio details, an anecdote about a band member, details of what inspired a song or how the song reflected the zeitgeist of the time. Since the song write-ups are brief the book shifts topics every few minutes, making for a fast read but also making it convenient to set the book down when you want to take a break, which is a good thing because you'll be inspired to get up and put on your favorite Southern rock album.

Order it online here.

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