Everything about The Georgia Thunderbolts screams “Southern Rock”; the name, the look, the twin guitar attack – all classic tropes of a genre that (thanks mainly to the easily identifiable songwriting) keeps on going regardless of whatever is on-trend that year. But delve deeper into the DNA of the quintet from Rome, GA (at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains) and you will find influences that are equally shared between the classic British blues-rock acts such as Free, Bad Company, and Humble Pie, and Southern acts like Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band.
Album opener ‘Take It Slow’ does anything but that. It explodes to life with a fiery harmonica sound and a killer, heavy blues shuffle that is expertly controlled by the man behind the kit Bristol Perry. It’s easy to instantly warm to the rich, authentic vocals from TJ Lyle, and if you get a Paul Rodgers vibe from TJ (you will for sure on ‘It’s Alright’), well, that’s cool. After the thumping ‘Lend A Hand’ (which packs an almighty stomp, along with some glorious vocal harmonies) fades out, ‘So You Wanna Change The World’ kicks in, and the Southern Rock-o-meter immediately crackles to life and rests in the red zone for the entire song. So good it could easily sit alongside the giants of the genre and not look out of place. The slide-driven ‘Looking For An Old Friend’ will cause flashbacks to discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd for the first time on The Old Grey Whistle Test, a simple, well-written, and well-played song that should find a home in the collection of any self-respecting fan of guitar-driven music regardless of the genre. TJ’s vocals are pretty damn potent, and the easy-going pace of the song is crucial, no one is in a hurry to get where they are going and it’s all about the journey.
‘Spirit Of A Workin’ Man’ is one of the cornerstone moments of the album, and it’s easy to imagine this one playing a major role in the live set. Again, feel free to pick up a Paul Rodgers vibe, maybe even throw a Ronnie Van Zandt one while you are there. The guitar work from Riley Couzzourt and Logan Tolbert sounds as fresh as a daisy and the pair certainly makes their marks throughout this one, as they do on the entire album – the guitar melodies on the title track are especially noteworthy. With its organic, right-here-right-now feel ‘Half Glass Woman’ is another cornerstone moment, the bass licks from Zach Everett totally crush, as does the elongated wailing from TJ Lyle. Everett also provides the lush vocal harmonies; plugin ‘Dancin’ With The Devil’, pop on some decent cans, and just let the harmonies wash over you – sheer bliss. The standout track on the album is however the seven-minute closer ‘Set Me Free’ which is the very definition of the word “epic”.
The inclusion of a glorious romp through the Andy Fraser-penned bonafide Frankie Miller classic ‘Be Good To Yourself’ comes as no surprise. It fits perfectly (as does a cover of The Allmans ‘Midnight Rider’), and the debut full-length album for Mascot Records, ‘Can We Get A Witness’, is chock-full of quality moments that stop off at Southern Rock, Blues Rock, and good old-fashioned rock & roll. These songs obviously come to life onstage and would be best-enjoyed beer-in-hand in a darkened auditorium, or even outdoors at a festival, but until then make do with this more-than-worthy debut.
Out now via Mascot Records/Mascot Label Group, more information, here.
Review – Dave
Photo credit: Jim Arbogast