As one of only two surviving original members of the Outlaws, guitarist and vocalist Henry Paul says he feels a sense of responsibility for carrying on the Southern rock group’s 40-year legacy.
“Taking responsibility for perpetuating the band’s musical journey and taking care to see that it’s done thoughtfully is part of what I do,” Paul says.
Paul and drummer Monte Yoho are the only living members from the original group formed in 1972 in Tampa, Fla. Fellow founding members Billy Jones, Frank O’Keefe and Hughie Thomasson all are gone.
“It was very sad and premature in every instance,” says Paul of the deaths of his band mates. “It was difficult to deal with emotionally and to overcome musically.”
Despite the highs and lows over the last 40 years, the Outlaws, which now consists of Paul, Yoho, Chris Anderson, Billy Crain, Dave Robbins and Randy Threet, are back with their first album in 18 years. “It’s About Pride” was released in September. The band is touring on the heels of the new record and plays the Weinberg Center for the Arts on Friday with special guests Tommy Castro, The Painkillers and the Kenny Young Band.
According to Paul, who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., along with the other members of the band, the Outlaws’ defining sound came by way of their first three records — “The Outlaws,” “Lady in Waiting” and “Hurry Sundown” — all recorded between 1975 and 1980.
The Southern rockers, known to fans as “The Florida Guitar Army,” toured with bands such as The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Doobie Brothers, and eventually were signed by Clive Davis.
Paul says with their latest record, the Outlaws have made an effort to remain true to the original sound.
“It was really like, ‘What did you love about the Outlaws, what did the fans love about the Outlaws and can we give it to them?’” Paul says. “I think there’s a legacy involved with the Outlaws that I think this group of people have come to recognize as the band’s musical personality.”
Some of those recognizable characteristics include defining traits of many Southern rock bands, like a dual lead guitar interplay, while others are more Outlaw-specific, like their use of three- and four-part harmonies instead of the more conventional single lead vocalist.
“It all points to the Outlaws’ traditional sounds,” Paul says.
Even the subject matter in some of the songs off “It’s About Pride” are dedicated to honoring the long history of the Outlaws.
“A lot of the songs cast a retrospective view,” Paul says. “It was a natural theme as a writer to embrace.”
Songs such as “Tomorrow’s Another Night” take a look back at the Outlaws’ past and examine how the band got to where they are today.
Although Paul acknowledges the importance of preserving a legacy, he also recognizes the need to move forward, and allowing this group of Outlaws to develop their own musical identity.
“[The album] gives the current band an opportunity to establish its own musical personality,” Paul says. “We wanted to create new music and a new sort of personality that reflected ... the band today. We wanted to sing about things that were clearly important to us in our lives as it sort of defines what we are doing.”
Luckily, Paul says the new members of the Outlaws, who have been together since 2008, were musicians he knew and trusted.
“These people that I work with are people I’ve known over the years,” Paul says.
Paul met guitarist Anderson in the mid-1980s and played previously in another band with guitarist and vocalist Crain.
“It was just a collaborative effort with people who I knew were well-suited to do this,” Paul says.
“I don’t think the goal was to re-create but to remain faithful.”