By John Benson
Once an Outlaw, always an Outlaw is what singer-guitarist Henry Paul is feeling these days.
Even though he enjoyed success on his own in the Henry Paul Band and BlackHawk, the Florida native is home again with the Outlaws, which recently released its first new studio album in over a decade.
A tribute to deceased original members Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones and Frank O’Keefe, “It’s About Pride” finds Paul exploring the same country-rock sound that in the ’70s positioned the Outlaws alongside legendary acts Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band.
“The passing of Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones and Frank O’Keefe left two original members of the band, and with this group I felt like we needed to establish our own music identity,” said Paul, calling from Nashville. “Going through the rest of the band’s career performing music from 30-plus years ago wasn’t why we got back into this. We got back into this to have an opportunity to write and record and sort of define what this band is now. We wanted to put a face to the name.”
Considering the Outlaws were known for country-rock-defining tunes such as “There Goes Another Love Song” and “Green Grass and High Tides,” Paul wanted the new tunes to fit the band’s classic-era mold.
“Everything that went into making the Outlaws a great band early on made this record as good as anything we’ve ever done,” Paul said. “The songwriting is exceptional. There are 12 really good songs on the record, and the performance is blistering. It’s all there — guitars, vocals, songs, energy. There’s an old saying: For those who understand it, there’s no explanation needed. And for those who don’t get it, there is no explanation that will work. If you ask an Outlaw fan, they will tell you these songs don’t disappoint.”
Among the highlights are the new album’s title track and also “Hidin’ Out in Tennessee.” Critics apparently have agreed, putting the new effort on many best of 2012 album lists. Now the Outlaws are hitting the road in its support. This includes a return to Youngstown for a Saturday show at The Cellar.
Paul said he remembers playing the intimate venue a few years ago. He said it’s sort of a full circle experience for the Outlaws. While the band reached great heights, even headlining Madison Square Garden decades ago, now it’s returned to the sweaty nightclubs to sway a new generation of fans. Next up for Outlaws is not only a live album and DVD release, but Paul hopes another chapter of success for the classic act.
“With all of that, I think you have enough relevant intellectual property to carry the band another five to 10 years down the road,” Paul said.