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The Outlaws’ Henry Paul on new LP and keeping southern rock alive

March 11, 2020
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Southern rock legends The Outlaws have just released “Dixie Highway,” the band’s first album of new material since 2012, and the good news for fans is that it’s a corker.

Led by co-founding members Henry Paul on guitar and vocals and Monte Yoho on drums, the band has conjured 11 new tracks that Paul says were crafted the way they’ve always done it: together as a band of brothers.

“Dixie Highway” was released through SPV/Steamhammer on CD, double-LP, digital download, and digital stream.

For nearly five decades, The Outlaws have been one of southern rock’s few standard bearers. Their triple-guitar attack, combined with intricately arranged three part vocal harmonies, and an ability to write and record enduring songs that have spanned generations, has secured the band’s position in the pantheon of greats that includes peers The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band and the Charlie Daniels Band.

From the band’s self-titled 1975 debut, recorded with The Doors’ producer, Paul Rothchild, The Outlaws delivered with hits like “There Goes Another Love Song” and the guitar anthem “Green Grass and High Tides,” an early tribute song to rockers who left us too soon. The new album picks up that thread from the first cut.

“Dixie Highway” begins with the opening salvo “Southern Rock Will Never Die,” a song that Henry Paul says is a promise made by a band that can keep it. While name-checking numerous departed southern rock icons with whom The Outlaws shared the stage, it’s an uplifting reminder of what the late greats gave us. According to Paul, the song is about moving forward and putting in the effort to ensure the genre not only continues to exist, but to prosper.

“Somebody’s going to have to roll up their sleeves and make that happen, and that’s what this band is about,” Paul said. “We’re putting on shows that are faithful to the band’s legacy and musical personality, and the music we write and record is relevant to our lives, and it’s important to the fans who’ve loved the band for so many years. That is why southern rock will survive, because we invest the effort to make sure that it does.”

Paul says the new album was a collaborative effort in the truest sense, with each member of The Outlaws making valuable contributions to the songs.

“The band lives together, plays together and writes and records together,” he said. “We record everything as a band, which is kind of an old school effort these days, but it’s the way I’ve always done it, and the way it was done by all of the great southern rock bands. We continue to move that music up the road.”

That road is the “Dixie Highway,” which is not only a great title but a stretch of road between Miami and Chicago, portions of which still exist. Paul says he has long thought it to be an apt album title.

“We were at the end of the road in Florida, so anytime you wanted to go on tour, you had to go north. We’ve spent our entire lives traveling that highway. I’d see the highway signs and they always elicited a great image for me: the connotation of Dixie and the south and being in a band recognized for its southern rock songs. ‘The road goes on forever but we’re on it ‘til the end, because we believe our salvation is just around the bend.’ It’s an optimistic view of how we do what we do.”

At its core, The Outlaws band has been a stable unit for years, but Paul admits that the group was a little apprehensive about how the new music on “Dixie Highway” would be received.

“It feels good,” he said. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re eternally grateful for that.”

Co-founding Outlaws guitarist and singer Hughie Thomasson passed away in 2007 after suffering a heart attack in his sleep. Some at the time speculated that it could mean the end of the road for the band, but Henry Paul says the group’s mission hasn’t changed from the days of the original lineup.

“From the very beginning it was all a dream. It was about having the ability to write and record original music, and knowing we had the songs and talent to make it,” said Paul. “Monte and I were in a band together, and Frank (O’Keefe, bassist and guitarist) joined that band, then Hughie joined, and Billy (Jones, guitars and keyboards) eventually joined that band.”

Paul says the opportunity for The Outlaws to put themselves out there arrived in the form of Ronnie Van Zant when his band opened a show for Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1974.

“We were hooked up with a guy who had the juice to get us signed and we made good on the opportunity,” he said. “Today, it’s all hard work to get up and preserve our career and go out to continue doing what we love.”

I told Paul that I watched a recent live video of The Outlaws performing the rocker “Rattlesnake Road” from the new record, and saw the audience enjoying it as much as they did the vintage material. How does it feel, I asked, to get a reaction like that to something brand new after all these years?

“That’s our reward, that’s what we work for. We have a lifetime of experience and the instinct to know when we’re running up against something really good. When we feel strongly about that, we have every reason to believe the fans will do the same. To have them embrace the songs from “Dixie Highway,” it feels like our reward for taking the chance by creating the songs from the ground up, and taking them on the road, and suggesting that we could single-handedly preserve an idiom that is very close and dear to us.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 March 2020 09:09

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