Southern Rock Rhythm, riffs & solos!
Turn the clock back to the 1970s as Richard Barrett takes inspiration from 10 of southern rock’s biggest bands, each with a fully transcribed riff, solo and bespoke backing track!
Like all genres, it’s all too easy to hear one or two songs and presume we know more about it than we actually do. In the case of southern rock, many will immediately conjure up the image of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, or Sweet Home Alabama. While this would be absolutely correct, it would also be overly simplistic; a bit like thinking we know all about heavy metal after hearing Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades. Along with these undeniable classics there are different takes on similar ideas and different influences.
The most obvious in southern rock is country – the soaring slide guitar on Free Bird fulfils a similar role to the pedal steel on many a country classic – but encompassing a more raunchy blues feel. Bernie Leadon’s Telecaster playing on the Eagle’s earlier material takes its influences from a similar place, but with a completely different result, also aided and abetted by the band’s flawless production even on those early albums. The term ‘melting pot’ is well on the way to becoming a cliché, but it’s probably the best way of describing the development of this style. Little Feat – featuring the expert slide guitar of Lowell George – took a funky approach, possibly absorbed from the funk and soul music they no doubt heard happening around them. Black Oak Arkansas synthesised a mixture of blues, soul, country and gospel (with singer Jim Dandy also managing to be a major influence on Dave Lee Roth). Using carefully arranged multi-layered guitars both live and in the studio, the sound was not a deliberately contrived mix – it was a natural product of the absorption of multiple influences, allowed to breathe and develop over hundreds of gigs.
The attention to detail in the harmony lines of the Allman Brothers and Eagles remains a source of wonder to all those who study it, even today. At the other end of the scale, Canned Heat take a much more blues-based approach, with a simpler sound, often using harmonica as a solo instrument rather than the guitar. Creedence Clearwater Revival also put a little less emphasis on their instrumental prowess, though it would be a particularly cold soul who didn’t appreciate their earthy appeal. John Fogerty’s confident guitar playing and soulful vocals sound great, even 40 years on.
Perhaps the ‘wild card’ of the bunch is Dixie Dregs, featuring the precise, measured playing of Steve Morse. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the country influence, though rock and jazz are present in equal measure. It we’re going to generalise about this, we should describe southern rock as a very broad genre, encompassing rock, jazz, blues, country, soul and gospel – though there is undoubtedly more going on, even than that.
The 10 examples are formatted as follows; first, a rhythm guitar, accompaniment, riff section. This then leads to a solo section over the same (or similar) backing. The two sections are transcribed separately for your convenience. The backing tracks all run through a 16-bar cycle of rhythm, lead etc, so you can either switch between the different parts, or use the solo sections to brush up on your double-tracking skills: very good for the timekeeping. Hope you enjoy these examples and see you soon.
THE SOARING SLIDE GUITAR ON FREE BIRD FULFILS A SIMILAR ROLE TO THE PEDAL STEEL ON MANY A COUNTRY CLASSIC