“Crossroads,” the Robert Johnson-cum-Cream metallic raver included on this live album, deftly encapsulates Lynyrd Skynyrd’s influences: Southern blues-rock diced with the sharp blade of British hard rock. Cream was based conceptually upon the idea of the guitar as the primary rock manipulator; Skynyrd has secured its large audience by maintaining that notion.
But Skynyrd has always relied more on a solid repertoire of rock material than on instrumental expertise. Their three guitarists — Steve Gaines has joined to fill Ed King’s old slot — have a solid arsenal of fills and solo ideas, but none of them has ever created a readily identifiable style. Appropriately, the solos in “Crossroads” never stray too far from Clapton’s on Wheels of Fire. And ironically, the album’s inevitable finale, “Free Bird” — the jam that made Skynyrd instant FM favorites — fails to maintain its heavyweight status, because it sounds, after four sides of the same, like just one final exertion of heavy-metal power.
While pianist Billy Powell remains in a largely supportive role, Ronnie Van Zant’s singing is always solid — barroom-tough on rockers, properly vulnerable on two of the set’s highlights, “Searching” and “The Needle and the Spoon.” The only new song, “Travellin’ Man,’ which is sung with effective and unobtrusive background singers, receives a similarly world-weary interpretation. The album’s real surprise though is a rock-out version of “T for Texas.”
Skynyrd has never aspired to be more than a tough rock & roll band, and their live set — which draws more than half its material from their first two albums — lives up to that. Penny for penny, One More from the Road offers a prime cut of guitar rock.