Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd Is a Free Bird on New Album 'Take It on Faith': Exclusive

Travis Shinn
Rossington

It's been a long time -- 36 years, in fact -- since Gary Rossington has released music outside of Lynyrd Skynyrd. But it was fan, and even band, demand that convinced he and his wife, Skynyrd backing vocalist Dale Krantz-Rossington, to record Take It On Faith, which comes out Friday and is previewed in its entirety below.

"It was from the fans all these years talking about the Rossington Collins Band days, and would I ever do anything like that with Dale," Rossington tells Billboard. Gary launched the Rossington Collins Band with fellow Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins and other Skynyrd members in 1979, two years after the fatal plane crash that halted the band for a decade. The group released a pair of albums.

"After awhile of those meet-and-greets of people asking, we had a little time off a few years back, so we went in and did it and it was just spontaneous, quick," Rossington explains. "It only took a couple weeks of recording and a few overdubs, and we were done. It was such a fun thing to do, and our fans were asking us and some of the guys in the band even mentioned, 'Why don't you guys do something?' So we went in and did it, and that was it."

The 12-track "Take It On Faith" was produced by David Z (Prince, Buddy Guy, Etta James), who assembled a lineup of players that included the late Richie Hayward (of Little Feat fame), Delbert McClinton, Bekka Bramlett, Double Trouble keyboardist Reese Winans and others, as well as songs co-written by Gary Nicholson and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons. And if the Rossington Collins Band felt like an extension of Skynyrd, this group of players made for a very separate kind of musical environment.

"It was different than Skynyrd," Rossington notes. "The personalities were different, so it sounds different. Nothing was worked up; We just kind of went in and did it." Krantz-Rossington adds, "These studio guys, they have that extra blessing from God that they can pick it up so fast. A lot of these are pretty much live tracks. I was singing in a little closet next to them and they just played 'em one time through with more feeling than you'd ever believe. I can't tell you how impressed we are with this bunch that came to us."

Take It On Faith was originally designed to be a blues album, and the bluesier tracks were among the first recorded. But, Krantz-Rossington says, "As the different songs came in we just couldn't pass them up. Some were really fun and silly,  some were cookin' pretty good and some were just sweet, slow songs." 

The Rossingtons haven't made any plans yet to play live to promote Take It On Faith. Skynyrd will be back on the road in 2017, and is talking about making its own new album, a follow-up to 2012's Last of a Dyin' Breed. The group had to cancel some shows this year due to Rossington's continuing heart problems, and there was some talk discussion about whether it was time for this particular Free Bird to nest for good.

"He's got several stents in his heart now, and after this last stent we really had a serious talk about just letting it go for now and being happy to be alive," Krantz-Rossington says. "But after a few days he was just miserable, and he said to me, 'I would much rather go out kickin' it than sitting here in my chair,' and that was the last time we talked about it. After that we just decided to hit the road and ask for God's mercy, and do it 'til we drop. It's just the way you do it when you've lived it your whole life. Every musician of age will tell that, I think."

Rossington says he "feels great" now, and views the new album's title as a statement of philosophy. "I just take every day on faith," he explains. "I guess when it's my time, I'm ready, and I'd rather be playing and living life -- like Neil Young said, it's better to burn out than to fade way." But he sees a finite time for Skynyrd as well. "We hope to keep on doing it a little while longer. I'm sure we'll end up doing a farewell tour in the next few years; I don't know exactly when but we're getting old here. Touring's gotten to be harder, but we still love it. It's just a gas. I don't think it's time to wrap it up. Not just yet."