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Album Review

Some new and developing musical artists resent the tendency of critics to describe their efforts by using the "sounds like" game, feeling that any similarity they are said to bear to earlier artists suggests they are not original. This doesn't seem to be a worry for Arkansas-based Zach Williams and the Reformation, who are described in the press release announcing the appearance of their debut album, Electric Revival, as looking and sounding "like they stepped off of a bus that's been in time travel since 1975." More specifically, that bus might have originated in Macon, GA, or the magical state of Sweet Home Alabama, the stomping grounds of the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. ZWR, as they like to call themselves, consist of four members, the singer and acoustic guitarist Zach Williams, two lead guitarists (Bobby Rigsby and Josh Copeland), and a bass guitarist (Dustin "Red" Dorton). For recording purposes, they have been augmented by a drummer, two keyboard players (one of whom, of course, plays the Hammond B-3 organ), and several female lead singers. It's the sort of instrumentation one needs to play Southern rock, and that's what ZWR do, led by Williams, who sings in a soulful, gravelly voice that is (you guessed it) a cross between Gregg Allman and Ronnie Van Zant, and those two guitars, playing riffs that date back to Chuck Berry and up to Duane Allman. ZWR have the sound down pat. What they don't have quite yet is the repertoire. Their original songs are steeped in their chosen tradition, and now and then they break out of the subject of love and its troubles to consider the need for community ("Stronger") or the passing of an aged mentor ("Take Me Home"). But even then, they cannot resist or transcend clichés. Thus, they sound like a bunch of guys who have spent some time in a Southern rock tribute band while working up their own material in a similar vein. It's just that there's nothing as memorable here as the better songs of the bands they sound like.

Electric Revival, Zach Williams and the Reformation
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