"LIONZ Breaking Out of the Zoo"
February 9, 2010
by Jordan Stepp
Breaking Out of the Zoo
It’s true that the Athens music scene is a real zoo sometimes, but local band Lionz takes it quite literally. Breaking Out of the Zoo is a whirlwind of noodley guitars, bass grooves, fantastic keyboards and all things good that you’d expect from a jam/ Southern-rock outfit. There’s a reason why Lionz keeps showing up on the Flagpole awards ballot.
Part of the appeal of Zoo is the recurring theme of travel. The eight-minute-long “Hiker” takes you along for an epic hitchhike across the U.S.A., stopping at certain points and suddenly launching into different rhythms, as if you’re just switching cars. A song that long has the potential to get old fast, but the guitar solos are pretty enjoyable and flow well into each other. The title track stands apart from the rest of the record with its slower, creeping pace. It begins with a sort of jazz-inspired funk accented by Dr. Chris Costigan's aching saxophone, and then Lionz pours on the blues with help from brassy, soulful singer Betsy Franck.
If anything, Breaking Out of the Zoo needs to be listened to as a whole record, not chopped into pieces. There’s a groove you get into early on, and it would be a shame to let it go. It’s hard for a jam band that's used to the freedom of improv to recreate that magic in the studio, but you never once feel like Lionz is holding anything back.