In more ways than one, this album is a sort of death knell for 1992. Not in it's musicality, it's lyrics; not even in it's feel. But after '92, what was "cool" (meaning what was selling itself as "cool") wasn't white guy rock bands anymore--sure, Nirvana still had legs, but with the release of the Chronic (and specifically, the video for "Nuthing But A 'G' Thing"), intimidating, forceful black rappers took over the top spot. To some extent, rightly so: a determined, masculine minority with definite beliefs (in most cases, women and money) is always going to seem strong to people to busy to look beyond the surface. (Again, the problem with music criticism v. popular taste is, in This Factual Opinion, isn't that the popular taste is stupidly embracing banal retreads because they like banal retreads, but because banal retreads are both easily accessible as product, and easily discoursed upon because of their widespread nature. Attacking people's taste because their too busy to pay attention to what's fresh and new was out of line in 1992, when finding music could take up money and time if one didn't live in LA or NYC. Nowadays, with file-sharing, it's less true: still, some people are just too busy to keep up.) 1992 was the time period when the white-boy rock groups (with long hair) went to war against black men with Starter jackets. Starter jackets won, and the guys at your high school who were cool became the guys who listened to rap (it wasn't until the late stage of 2001 that hip-hop became the phrasing of choice, and in all honesty, hip-hop is still a really idiotic name.)
That's not really the point though: Southern Harmony isn't about any of these things. It's a rock and roll album, through and through--and it's a great rock and roll album. It's got gospel back-up singers, it's got a Bob Marley cover, and it has the fascinating quality of becoming exponentially better for every decibel it's turned up. It's an album consisting of ten tracks, all of which could have served as hit singles if they'd had Jay-Z's marketing team. Southern Harmony is so firmly rooted in an idea of place (a mythical South that probably seems right below the railroad tracks even to people in Alabama) yet seems absolutely timeless. These are the things that make a decent album better: but in this case, Southern Harmony started from good--which means that by the end, it became amazing.
-Tucker Stone, 2006