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Sue GarnerSue Garner and Rick Brown, Still (Thrill Jockey Records 2000) - Sue Garner (originally from Atlanta) and husband Rick Brown have been making music for 15 years, Sue having performed with such New York City outfits as Last Roundup, Fish & Roses, and the Shams (with Amy Rigby).

Still finds the duo working in a home studio environment, laying down richly textured rock 'n roll, with dustings of Sue's sweet voice. The new album is the follow-up to the duo's prior collaboration, To Run More Smoothly.

Rick BrownThe highlights: Try "Absorbed" and "Asphalt Road," both of which feature an idiosyncratic, moody rock sound, with plenty of room for pregnant pauses.

Sue and Rick provide the bulk of the instrumentation, including vocals, guitars, drums, bass, synthesizer, clarinet, violin, vibes, and on. Also joining them are Douglas McCombs on bass and steel guitar, Doug Weiselman on reeds, Chris Stamey (ex-DB's) on cello on "I Like the Name Alice," and Tara Key with guitar on "Fussy Fuss."

Sue GarnerStill is late night, time to yourself music. In contrast to the more busy found sounds of Latin Playboys, Still weaves a layered texture that brings to mind the Silos.

Explains Rick, "Sue's experience in playing solo shows has strengthened her already-fine guitar playing and helped us learn how to incorporate samples and sequences in our recording. I've been sequencing and programming synths for years and that work has shown off more on this record than previously. And we're still playing around with our beloved bass and drum combination."

For an intriguing slice of New York City experimental rock, look for Still.

Solo FlytesLynyrd Skynyrd, Solo Flytes (MCA 1999) - Chalk Solo Flytes as a guilty pleasure. Drawing 17 tracks recorded by the various bands that sprang up after the 1977 plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant, Solo Flytes more than holds its own.

Skynyrd survivors Gary Rossington (guitars), Allen Collins (lead and rhythm guitar), Leon Wilkeson (bass guitar), and Billie Powell (keyboards) started playing together in 1979 when they were trying to heal the shattered pieces of their career.

Says Rossington, "We were still mind blown. We didn't want to just get another singer and another guitar player and go on as Skynyrd. We wanted to do something different."

Dale KrantzThat something different turned out to be the hiring of little-known singer Dale Krantz, who had previously worked with .38 Special. Says Powell, "I didn't like it at first, until I heard her sing. It just amazed us. We got us a white black singer is what we got. She was white, but she had that blackness in her."

Rossington is even more candid, recalling that "Allen came stormin' and he says, 'Yeah! Sounds like a fuckin' band now. He strapped on a guitar and we just plowed it out."

When released in the 80s, this music got little respect. Southern rock bands like Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Outlaws, and Charlie Daniels were viewed as having more "credibility." Yet it turns out that singer Krantz was more than able to hold her own.

Krantz' vocals are featured on 11 tracks from the CD, including "Sometimes You Can Put It Out" and "Prime Time," as well as a 1988 live version of "Don't Misunderstand Me."

Good timesWhile the 1980 Rossington Collins debut (Anytime * Anyplace * Anywhere) was a success, the problems continued for guitarist Allen Collins. In mid-tour, Collins' wife died suddenly from a pregnancy complication. Recalls Rossington, "When Kathy died, it just took Allen with her . . ."

Collins began to spiral downward, and was only a marginal contributor to the second Rossington Collins album (released in 1981). As the romance heated between Gary Rossington and Dale Krantz, the band split up. Says Rossington, "It was more like a divorce and a break-up of the band. Dale and I just both knew it was time to quit. It just wasn't happening. Nobody was happy."

Rossington and Krantz then took five years off to raise a family in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, before returning with a new band in 1986, and recording two albums the moniker The Rossington Band.

Meanwhile, Allen Collins formed his own band, which released one album in 1983 ("Here, There & Back"), which is represented by one song ("Chapter One" on Solo Flytes). Misfortune continued to dog Collins, who was paralyzed in an automobile accident in 1986 and died in 1990, never again able to play guitar.

Drummer Artimus Pyle also formed his own band, called All Points Bulletin, which is represented by one song ("Makes More Rock"). Pyle recalled the inspiration for that song: "One day I was driving my friend's Ferrari through the mountains. It was a beautiful day. I had just smoked a big joint and I cranked up his killer stereo and kicked it. I was doing 140 miles an hour and thinking of my friend Jack, who had died of cancer."

Kickin' itMost of the tracks on Solo Flytes have not been available on CD ROM during the 1990's. Among the album's rarities is "One in the Sun," recorded by guitarist Steve Gains in 1975, before he joined the Skynyrd band.

The highlights are the songs recorded with Dale Krantz (the album would be better called "Greatest Hits of Dale Krantz"), who recalls, "It was so exciting for me, between that long, lean Allen on one side and Gary on the other, and all of a sudden I was center stage with these living legends. I will never forget Allen looking over at Gary like 'Whoa! What happened to her?' Boy, they just got me singing from my toes."

With thoughtful liner notes and rare photos of the band, Solo Flytes is an interesting look back at the post-Skynyrd years.

While the music may have been dismissed when it was released, the music holds up as more than an historical piece. Give Solo Flytes a chance.

- Randy Krbechek © 2000

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