This review first appeared on musicnewsnashville.com
The name Van Zant has been a well-known one in American music for over four decades. Ronnie Van Zant, frontman of Lynyrd Skynyrd, died when the band’s plane went down in 1977, and his brothers Donnie and Johnny continued the tradition he began, with Donnie singing for .38 Special and Johnny taking the helm with a re-formed Skynyrd. In addition, the brothers recorded together as Van Zant for Columbia in Nashville.
Now, Ronnie’s daughter, Tammy, who was 10 when he died, has released her own album, Freebird Child, a CD years in the making. With production, co-writing and background vocals by Robert White Johnson, who has a long history with the family and its music, this album is a heartfelt collection of mostly original songs about Tammy Van Zant’s life, her family, and her Christian faith.
The album features a crack band of Nashville studio cats, with production that brings to mind the southern rock sound the Van Zant name is so closely identified with, without ever being derivative or feeling like some sort of Skynyrd tribute. These same players work with a lot of Nashville’s Christian artists, and that overall feel of hope and joy permeates the record. Songs like “Stone Washed Genes,” “Dixie Rose” and “Surviving on a Wing and a Prayer” reveal the heart of a woman who’s endured tragedy and paid a lot of dues in life, and has still come out on top by staying grounded in her faith.
Tammy Van Zant is a convincing vocalist, and what she lacks in chops she overwhelmingly makes up for in sincerity. Besides the original songs there are some covers here, like a wise choice in Anita Cochran’s “Daddy Can You See Me,” which seems tailor-made for her. And what could have been an ill-advised cover of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” turns out to be an unexpectedly good blues-rock version of the song.
This is an album worth checking out for fans of the Van Zants or for any woman who needs some encouragement when it comes to getting through the storms of life. After listening to Freebird Child, one can’t help but think that, somewhere in the heavens, Ronnie Van Zant has his arms outstretched, not to stop a couple of harp players from dueling, but to say, “Quiet! That’s my daughter singing!”
For more, visit www.tammyvanzant.com