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Various Artists

MCA

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Lynyrd Skynyrd was the only Southern rock practitioner with sufficient chops to interest fans of the genre’s classy elder statesmen, the Allman Brothers, and ample antebellum attitude to mollify followers of the assholier- than-thou guitarmies (Molly Hatchett, the Outlaws) that were handed record deals after Jimmy Carter took office. The latest all-star homage to the dead band, the improbably endearing Skynyrd Frynds, is further proof that Southern rock is very much alive, only now it’s called “new country.” There isn’t an act on this tribute album that gets pop airplay, and the country stars on Frynds don’t hide their reverence and affection for the material or its creators. Particularly Travis Tritt (“Don’t Ask Me No Questions”), who has always tried to sing—and even look—like Ronnie Van Zant. Hank Williams Jr., another unabashed Van Zant zealot, delivers “Tuesday’s Gone” like a hymn. Van Zant also had a tremendous sense of humor, and if there’s any criticism of Frynds, it’s that the lighter side isn’t given enough play. The Mavericks, who go to camp on J.J. Cale’s “They Call Me the Breeze,” are the only ones having any real fun with the material. Wynonna’s “Freebird” closes the show, but the ex-Judd wisely defers to local guitar hero Steuart Smith, who single-handedly provides the fretboard fireworks that Skynyrd’s axe-wielding triumvirate did.