The greatest Southern Rock albums are American treasures. They paint a 70s imagery of rock but aren’t contained to that decade.
They vary in subject matter, from simple booze tunes to challenging historical tales. All lit up by epic guitars.
But which artists wrote the greatest Southern Rock albums?
Let’s go deep down south and find out!
About Southern Rock
The term Southern rock was probably first used by writer Mo Slotin in 1972 when reviewing the Allman Brothers Band live. But the subgenre’s roots go back to 1969 when Duane Allman worked with Wilson Pickett on his cover of Hey Jude.
Pickett was an established southern, black musician. While Allman was a scruffy, white session musician at Fame Studios in Alabama. They met at the height of the Vietnam War, a time of racial tension and great civil unrest. This collaboration was a symbol of bringing it all back home to the South.
The origins of rock and roll music started with black musicians in America, mainly located in the South. The British invasion then brought it up North and added some psychedelia and heavy rock.
During the strife of the late 60s and early 70s, the working-class youth of America brought the rock sound back home. They needed an antidote to war. They needed release, peace, and pride. Although the actual recording of Pickett’s Hey Jude isn’t specifically Southern Rock, you can hear and feel how it all began.
Southern rock is a mix of blues, country, and rock. You’ll hear more slide guitar, fast leads, and boogie beats. The lead vocals tend to be strong and belted out. You can feel it. Most Southern rock albums center around everyday, working-class values and pride with plenty of good times tossed in.
Southern rock’s heyday was in the 70s. MTV pushed the subgenre down a couple of notches in popularity in the 80s, and Arena rock took its place.
That said, many bands beyond those on our list continued playing Southern rock during the following decades. Check out The Black Crowes, Bo Bice, Widespread Panic, and Brittany Howard to hear how the sound evolved.
#5 Tres Hombres by ZZ Top
About the Band: ZZ Top was formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. They’re probably most well-known for their defining long beard and sunglasses look of the 80s. Their MTV videos in the early 80s helped propel them into pop infamy. Although they dabbled in synthy dance-oriented tracks during this time, their growling guitar sound remained the anchor for over 50 years.
About the Album: Tres Hombres was ZZ Top’s third album, released in 1973. The band’s blend of fast and sleazy riffs, roadhouse rhythms, and cajun crunch delivered their righteous signature sound. You have lyrics about waiting for a bus, going to a whore house, and Jesus coming down to New Orleans. Tres Hombres is a fiendish, stripped-down Southern rock classic.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s album, Second Helping, was a close second for slot #5 on our list. But let’s face it. This record is just cooler.
Best Song: La Grange. This smokin’ track was the band’s first charting song, featuring their most notable, boogie-woogie blues guitar riff.
#4 Southern Rock Opera by Drive-By Truckers
About the Band: Drive-By Truckers is a band co-founded by Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley in 1996. Hood and Cooley played together in various bands before Truckers, constantly trying to escape their Southern roots.
Both grew up in Shoals, Alabama, before moving to the more indie-rock streets of Athens, Georgia. Luckily, the duo eventually embraced their upbringing and still play and record today.
About the Album: Southern Rock Opera is an American gothic concept album about growing up in the deep South. If you want to describe the vibe of the southern states to someone who has never been to America, start here.
Lead singer Patterson Hood takes us on a journey through hard work, hard drinking, southern myths, and rock icons. With three lead guitars, straight-ahead rhythm, and an occasional group vocal, Southern Rock Opera is the second generation shining star in Southern Rock history.
Best Song: This is a challenging question with 20 songs to choose from. But, we’re giving it to Life In The Factory, an excellent Southern Rock pop song. It’s a stand-alone single and delivers a working-class story in glorious pride.
#3 Wild-Eyed Southern Boys by .38 Special
About the Band: .38 Special came together in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1974. They produced 12 studio albums, hitting their stride in the 80s. Founder Donnie Van Zant kept the wheels turning until he had to leave the music industry for health reasons in 2013. Don Barnes, co-lead singer and original member, holds on happily and retains a steady, loyal fanbase.
About the Album: Wild-Eyed Southern Boys was the breakthrough album for .38 Special. It sold over a million copies in America. Van Zandt and Barnes swayed more towards arena rock melodies than blazing guitar riffs, producing three hit singles. If you want a Southern Rock Album that goes down easy, this is the one for you.
Best Song: Hold On Loosely is the winner here. Some die-hard fans may protest, as this was indeed a much more polished track. But simply put, the song delivers!
#2 Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd by Lynyrd Skynyrd
About the Band: Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of the most well-known American rock bands around. With two drummers, three guitarists, and a storytelling vocal drawl, their sound drew Southern Rock’s map.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1977, at their peak of success. The band was in a plane crash on October 20, 1977, which killed three band members, two pilots, and a roadie.
About the Album: This album says Southern Rock right out of the gate. From the first twangs of Allen Collin’s guitar, you’ll want to raise your lighter and roar with the crowd. Or kick back and have a beer.
The only thing more incredible than the fact that this was their debut album is the album itself. Released in 1973, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd was certified gold in 1974 and platinum by 1987.
Best Song: Free Bird. We love them all, but no other track can top this one.
#1 Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band
About the Album: Eat A Peach was released in 1972 and was the first album released after the death of Duane Allman. It’s both a memorial and a pathway for the band to carry on. The record won praise from the music industry and fans alike, showcasing the band’s vast talent and musical proficiency.
Best Song: There truly is no best track on this album because they’re all so good and so different. It’s hard to compare apples to oranges. But for today, we’re going with Blue Sky.
Southern Rock Album Honorable Mentions
Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ with Disaster
With a more metal edge, Molly Hatchet’s second album charted high in 1979. Tracks like “Whiskey Man” and “It’s All Over Now” bring us the best from this ax-wielding band of Floridians.
Black Oak Arkansas – High on the Hog
This 1973 release is about sex, sex, and more sex. Raunchy rock is a good style to wear in the world of Southern Rock. Just roll with it.
The Marshall Tucker Band – The Marshall Tucker Band
This 1973 album is a classic. Tracks like Can’t You See give you the sweeter side of Southern Rock. A flute usually isn’t associated with the American South, but it works well here.
Which Southern Rock Album is Your Favorite?
It was a fun challenge to narrow down our list of the greatest Southern Rock Albums. What do you think of our selection? What would you add or take away?