When Kentucky Headhunters singer-guitarist Richard Young first heard The Georgia Thunderbolts onstage, it jolted him right out of his tour bus. He ran to the stage to see what his band was going to have to do to outshine his opening act. “I kinda felt like I had uncovered a time capsule from ’72,” he told me in a 2020 interview. “Like I just dug ’em up out of the ground, and they just never got found in the ’70s.”
Young thought enough of the band to let them open a few shows for the Headhunters, but had no idea of their full potential ’til he heard them cut loose on stage at that festival in Georgia a few years back.
Young has high praise for the Thunderbolts lead singer, TJ Lyle, calling him a cross between Scottish soul man Frankie Miller, vocalist Mickey Thomas (soloist on “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” with The Elvin Bishop Band and Jefferson Starship), and Ray Charles. “He’s badass, I’m tellin ya,” says Young, who now manages the Thunderbolts and co-wrote five of the songs on their debut album, Can We Get a Witness.
New Southern rock is a pretty good descriptor for the Bolts. “Looking for an Old Friend” sounds like Ronnie Van Zandt-era Lynyrd Skynyrd backed by Dan Baird and the Georgia Satellites.
But there’s plenty of Southern soul in these boys’ throats and hands as well. “Be Good to Yourself” was one of Frankie Miller’s signature tunes, and Lyle hits all the marks. It’s raw ’70s soul, and the Thunderbolts manage to preserve its integrity while Southernizing it a tad, substituting some mint julep harmonies for the blistering guitar break on the original, simultaneously giving it a big bottom-end boost courtesy of bassist Zach Everett and drummer Bristol Perry.
The Skynyrd tag is gonna haunt ’em some, but there’s much more in their trick bag. The title cut is headbanger fodder, a defiant I-showed-up-the-naysayers anthem: “All the doubt they had about me / now they know they were wrong,” Lyle proclaims triumphantly as the band thunders threateningly around him.
Lyle adds some Robert Plant tonsil aerobatics to a cover of “Midnight Rider” that crosses the Allmans with Led Zep for a metallic Georgia longhair-flinging festival.
Can We Get a Witness is a good one from some up-and-coming good ol’ boys looking for a sweet home of their own, on their own terms.