Album Review : The Georgia Thunderbolts – Can We Get A Witness

Review by Peter Coates –

Released – 15th October

The Georgia Thunderbolts are riding high. Having just been featured by Rolling Stone, who compared their “lean, muscular songs” to artists like Blackberry Smoke, The Steel Woods and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band has “a full tank of gas and is heading down the road” in the new video for Take It Slow, out now via Mascot Records / Mascot Label Group, taken from the upcoming debut album, Can We Get A Witness. 

“In Georgia, you hear Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, and all of the greats everywhere,” says guitarist, Logan Tolbert. “Rock and roll is something that comes naturally for us. We feel like we can bring it back.” The press agree, with Classic Rock Magazine dubbing the band “your new favourite southern rock band,” and American Songwriter calling their recently released debut EP which contains 5 of the tracks on the album, “timeless.”

This is straight-up southern rock as it was meant to be played, mean and gritty dual guitars, southern twang in the vocals, and the piledriving bass and drums that powers it all along, and Take It Slow opens up the album with four minutes of totally in-your-face rock’n’roll.  The guitars get louder and dirtier for Lend A Hand in keeping with the slower tempo, and TJ Lyle delivers a powerful lead vocal, before the chorus explodes into a wall of harmonies.  The second verse is totally stripped back which makes the chorus even more of a contrast, before the solo kicks in, and there is a great little mid-section before the final chorus, with the whole song having tinges of Black Stone Cherry in the guitars and melodies.

A loud southern-rock ballad always gives the soul a boost, and So You Wanna Change The World delivers in spades, with Bristol Perry on the drums really adding an extra dimension to the track through the solidity of the beat, and the hammering snare that really defines the track.  There is some wonderful and laid-back guitar work throughout, with a tasty solo, and a very mellow outro, showing off the skills of both Riley Couzzourt and Logan Tolbert

Looking For An Old Friend is the first track the band wrote, and really harks back to the golden era of southern rock, such as The Outlaws, Allman Brothers and of course Lynyrd Skynyrd, but this is definitely not a cheap knock-off of the classics, but a high-class fresh take on the genre, with the raw blues-rock guitars steeped in a soulful southern swagger.  The backing vocals here are superb, with bassist Zach Everett doubling the lead line throughout with some classy harmonies. 

Next up is the immense Spirit Of A Workin’ Man which is a tour-de-force from start to finish, and has a chorus that raises the hairs on the back of the neck.  The guitars run an intricate pattern behind the verse which then blasts into the pre-chorus with some power-chords and accents.  The solo is another ripper, and leads us back to another chorus before guitars and vocals give us an impassioned outro.  This is an absolute gem, and may be the defining track on the record.

There is a chiming guitar riff opening up Midnight Rider, a brave but effective cover of the Allman Brothers classic from 1970, before some typical southern rock harmonies lead us into the song proper – again seeing Zach Everett providing the harmonies that create the very typical Thunderbolts sound.  The guitars both show some unusual interplay before the second verse, before some wonderful harmonic progressions lead us on.  Everett adds some great keyboards to the swagger of Be Good To Yourself which rolls along sweetly with a deliberate riff, classic chord sequences, and a southern rock drawl in the vocals.  There is a nice touch in the “wooh ooohs” in the middle-eight which you can see being an extended crowd singalong live.

Half Glass Woman has a sleazy, grungy blues rock riff to kick us off, with some blistering harmonica before TJ opens up the verse.  This is contemporary southern blues rock at it’s very best, with the bass and drums providing the deliberate solid beat and all the accents, while the voice and guitars do their thing.  Twin guitar-breaks share the soloing before the next chorus which sees the backing broken up, the harmonica run wild alongside the really powerful vocals.  There is more of a Sweet Home Alabama feel to Dancin’ With The Devil with the guitars taking centre stage, backed up by some lovely Hammond organ, and lets us all take a breather.

Volume turned up, effects pedals kicked on, and the guitars crank out a monster riff in the title track Can I Get A Witness, with TJ delivering a snarling lower-register vocal in the verse before powering up into the chorus which sees him in full-throttle mode with power and clarity both to the fore, after which the guitars absolutely own the break.  There is a cracker of a solo with some insane off-beat rhythms in the back which give this an extra dimension.  Walk Tall Man is all off-beat urgency in the verse, and then southern rock harmony in the chorus, with a bit of Black Stone Cherry vibe in the tone and phrasing. More excellent guitar-work in the solo over that off-beat tempo, and a real looseness in the drumming through the mid-section and the closing choruses which just strengthens the southern feel. 

Bar-room boogie is alive and well with It’s Alright with just a touch of the Free classis Alright Now, combined with straight-up southern rock.  “But these Thunderbolts aren’t a low-voltage knockoff of the greats who came before,” Rolling Stone Magazine states; “Rather, they keep things fresh by committing to lean, muscular songs…Southern rock continues to thrive in the 21st century.”  The album closes with the deliberate slow-burner of Set Me Free, with the intricate and insistent guitar riff, the power of the pre-chorus chords, and the intense blend of voice and guitars before and during the solo, and in the closing segment. There is an uplifting passion and emotion in the closing couple of minutes, which sees TJ Lyle absolutely let rip on the vocals, while both Riley ang Logan throw guitar break after guitar break as the 7 minute epic fades out.

So much of the music being released recently can potentially be classed as unoriginal and derivative – that is of course true in pretty much every genre, and every decade, and there is plenty of activity in the current crop of rock bands from both the UK and USA that harks back to the “golden days” of classic southern rock.  The Georgia Thunderbolts don’t shy away from this at all, “We’re going for that timeless and classic sound with a modern twist and newer attitude,” exclaims Lyle.  “We all grew up on rock music,” Riley adds.  “If I could think of three words to describe us, they would be Hardworking, Determined, and Humble.” Bristol grins, “If I could think of three words, they would be Rock and Roll.”

Well said indeed!

The Georgia Thunderbolts are:

Riley Couzzourt [guitar]

Zach Everett [bass, harmony vocals, keys]

TJ Lyle [vocals]

Bristol Perry [drums]

Logan Tolbert [guitar]

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Pic : Jim Arbogast