Mainstream South is a trio whose roots stem from the heart of the Lynyrd Skynyrd family tree. Guitarist Barry Lee Harwood and drummer Derek Hess were both members of the post-plane crash band Rossington Collins, and pianist Steve Perez played in bands with Harwood and Hess, as well as Skynyrd alumni Randall Hall in the pre-Skynyrd days. In fact, many of the tunes on this all-instrumental album were written and performed in the days before the Free Bird flew high.
Barry Lee Harwood is a true musician’s musician. He plays acoustic, electric and slide guitars, mandolin, dobro, and even lap steel. Besides his stellar work with The Rossington Collins Band, Barry Lee also played on various tracks from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Nuthin Fancy, Gimme Back My Bullets and Street Survivors.
Derek Hess is an equally talented musician, playing drums and percussion. He played drums for Rossington Collins as well as The Allen Collins Band, and he has toured with The Derek Trucks Band.
Steve Perez is a top flight musician and writer, who played with Barry Lee and Derek prior to entering a life career in business. He also toured with singer songwriter Melanie. (“Brand New Key.”)
The music here is definitely not Southern Rock. What it is, however, is an absolutely astounding set of contemporary rock instrumentals, that vacilate between jazzy riffs and blues licks, wrapped up in a blanket of pure Southern originality. Every song is winner. As a writer, I like to put instrumental and soundtrack albums on while I work, and I just made Speechless my new favorite. It’s great driving music too. Pop it in the CD changer in the Lexus or the pickup truck and hit the open road. It’ll set your mind free.
The trio is augmented by a couple of heavy hitter guests, including solo artist and former Sea Level member Randall Bramblett, who plays saxophone on “Boardwalk Nights” and “Madam, a Moment…Please.” Rick Johnson adds sax on “Never Better.”
Speechless is at once an unexpected sound from these former Southern Rockers and also a pleasant surprise. It’s all good, and like your veggies, good for you too. Slip on a pair of Bose headphones, pop this one in, and close your eyes. Let me know what your imagination paints on the inside of the walls within your mind. I know it will be beautiful, with lots of bright colors.
-Michael Buffalo Smith