LEE BAINS III & THE GLORY FIRES – DERECONSTRUCTED

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The following is my review of the new Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires record. I don’t talk about the sound or the music a lot, so let me get that out of the way now: it’s loud, forceful Alabama punk rock’n’soul that makes you want to sing and shake and stomp and sweat. Lee Bains, Eric Wallace, and Adam and Blake Williamson are a potent machine, creating a wall of sound that is a pure joy to listen to in its interplay. This record doesn’t sound like their last record, it sounds more like their live show. Plenty of people have written about it, from the New York Times to NPR, people who have written about music a lot more than I have. I’m not very good at writing about sounds so I’ll leave that to them. I’m interested in something much bigger than the sound of this record.

You may have seen the stellar in-depth write-up on Bitter Southerner by Chuck Reece, and if you haven’t I suggest all of you go ahead and read it right now. You’ll get a lot of history of Lee, and a lot of the context for this record that is vitally important. One of the most striking things that Lee says is in response to a question that Mr. Reece posed to him, “Why did you make this record?” The following is a piece of Lee’s answer, a line, a scrap, but one that I feel is of the utmost importance: “The South is not the object here. The South is merely my context, that abiding point in space and spirit from whence I encounter creation.”

This is absolutely a record by a boy from Birmingham, Alabama. The geographical origin of this record, though, is neither its be-all or end-all. Lee has a lot to say on this album that may get overlooked in the face of its power and gall; reviewers and listeners not used to  parsing every line may miss the forest for the trees, and with a record like De-Reconstructed that would be a shame. I don’t want to dwell too long on the points that will no doubt earn Lee and his band well-deserved adulation, but there are a few points regarding this album that I believe are worth making: the issues broached are more than just Southern issues, it breaks with many conventions of whatever-the-hell genre this is, and it is an active protest record in every sense of the word.

If you haven’t taken the time to read the lyrics along with the record, you absolutely should: they’re available at the band’s website. Once you dig a little deeper than the soulful and frequently shouted verses, you’ll find a breadth of references to everything from biblical history to current events to Lee’s own family members. “We Dare Defend Our Rights!”, a song referencing the state motto of Alabama, opens with the crushing inequalities such a motto can represent: the 16th Street Baptist church bombing in 1963, the modern fight for gay rights, and the plight of immigrants in the country legally or otherwise. Although the framing of these issues is the South, the issues themselves are anything but; in Bains’ eyes (as in mine), you cannot frame gay rights or immigrant rights as anything other than a Civil Rights issue. As the generation who holds views like ‘homosexuality as sin’ grows older (but not yet old enough to no longer hold political office), and a more tolerant generation begins to make their voice heard, there will be friction. It is hard to imagine the “hollering in the streets” that Lee references as anything other than Occupy-like protests. He even references that movement directly, in “The Company Man”: “Remember Woodruff Park, where America’s step-kids sang ‘We Shall Overcome'”. Occupy Atlanta was in Woodruff Park for 20 days before they were arrested, and indeed “Hauled off down Andrew Young!”

The Occupy movement is anything but absolutely Southern, though it is no surprise that it took hold in the South. Discontent and protest may not always have the same symptoms but you can bet damn sure the disease that sent countless hundreds to Wall Street in 2011 sent many more to a park in Atlanta. The Reconstruction, a series of failed post-Civil War policies that attempted to give some order to the re-admitted Southern states, is and was absolutely the South’s cross to bear. The rest of the country, though, also has its own weight and baggage to carry. For every Southerner drinking  tea “whose leaves were picked betwixt firing squads in Sudan” there is sure to be one Northerner or Easterner doing the same. To paint this record as an analysis of the Modern Southern Trials and Tribulations is absolutely fair, but ignores the larger picture: the rest of the country is facing the same demons, but maybe from a different perspective.

When listening to Dereconstructed, at first listen you may think that it has an interesting sound but otherwise falls into the wheelhouse of similar Southern Rock or Alt-Country or Post-Punk-Folk-Grunge or whateverthehell kinds of records there are. There are two important points that, on the graph of genre records, make this one an outlier: there is not a single love song, or a single reference to drinking or drugs. Yes, “Mississippi Bottomland” and “The Weeds Downtown” both very clearly reference female love interests, but the relationship with the woman is not the point of either song. Those songs, along with the stellar “The Kudzu And The Concrete”, are love songs dedicated to a place. Bains is more than capable of writing gorgeous ballads to lost love: look at “Roebuck Parkway” or “Everything You Took” off of his last album. On a ten-track record, six of the songs are dedicated to social or economic inequality (both past and present), three of the songs are about the South itself, and one song is about passion and music and race cars. None of the songs are about being drunk or getting high or heartbreak or waiting around to die (no offense meant, Townes). Each of these songs are active, are aggressive, in a way that Two Cow Garage’s latest record was: these songs are not songs by or for people who wait around for things to happen.

This brings me to my last point: this is a protest record. Lee Bains III did not make a kickass rock and roll record so that we all could listen to the vinyl and buy his t-shirts, although I’m sure he does appreciate the sentiment. This is a record for being mad as hell and not taking it any more. This is a record of convictions, of lines in the sand, of compassion and hard work and the pursuit of happiness. This is a record intended to stick with you after you’re done listening to it. As Lee says in “We Dare Defend Our Rights”:

“If you won’t let us lay the plans on the supper table,

We’ll build the thing in your front damn yard”

“Dereconstructed” hearkens back to an older time, a darker time that doesn’t look too different from the present when you start paying attention. How many thousands, millions of us, have seen protests on our TV screens or computer monitors and inwardly expressed solidarity with those marching out or sitting in, but did nothing to participate? How many politicians that sicken us have been re-elected on our watch without our vocal participation in the democratic process of debate? This is a record by a Southerner, from a Southern point of view, but I grew up in a Western desert and went to school right in the middle of the country, and I can safely say that the system isn’t perfect across the Alabama state line.

Take the time to read the lyrics, to listen to the songs. Take the time to think about your hometown and what you’ve said about it since you’ve moved away, or since you wish you had. Think about the times you’ve held your tongue instead of speaking your mind, at work, at home. There are plenty of uninformed opinions flying around all over the place, but there are plenty of informed ones that never get spoken, too. Think about the people you meet in your life, and how you treat them. I can safely say that this band, this album, this songwriter have affected the way I think about my life. I can honestly say I hope they affect yours, too.

I’ll close with maybe my favorite lines from the record, off of “The Kudzu And The Concrete”:

“We were like to drown
In the odour of honeysuckle
And old Lincolns running rich
On Oporto-Madrid:
The pecans that would dot
The little yard our great-granddaddy cleared;
The old ragged men that would stop
Slinging slurred words over the fence.
With a smiling nod, Granddaddy’d pick us up and tote us inside.
He’d say, ‘Big buddy, any good man can fall on mighty hard times.'”

Listen to the record with an open mind and heart. Pick it up, support the band. Talk to us here at 9b about it, talk to each other about it, talk to your friends about it. Go out and see a show. But then take it a step further. If you love this record and this band as much as I do, if you love where you’re from and this planet and each other, it’s time to start getting each other through the bad times.Bring earplugs if you need them: with Lee Bains III leading the way, it’s bound to get loud.

The Company Man

The Weeds Downtown

We Dare Defend Our Rights

Around The Web – Wolf Style

Hey folks, your friendly West Coast 9b writer is here to lay down some internet knowledge real quick. These posts serve as a reminder that the online world is our oyster, and it’s dollar beer night down at the seafood bar.

I don’t really know what that means but I guess I’ll just get started.

tcg-utTwo Cow Garage Covers Uncle Tupelo – Yeah, brother, you heard what I said. From the upcoming Uncle Tupelo tribute album We’re All Criminals Here, everyone’s favorite 3 piece cover “We’ve Been Had”. I’ll wait for you to pick your brains up off the floor…

BEFORE BLOWING THEM RIGHT BACK OUT AGAIN!


lbiii-liveLee Bains III & The Glory Fires Live Set – That’s right. The powerhouse of ‘bama punk rock’n’soul is touring constantly in preparation and support for their new album Dereconstructed, coming out on Sub Pop records which you should TOTALLY pre-order. I know I have. The Brooklyn, NY venue Shea Stadium is awesome about posting complete sets of shows to their Soundcloud. The Glory Fires play some old ones and some new ones, and if you want to be excited about the new album or haven’t heard these Alabama white boys play…man, you should.

rcsHouse on the Hill Acoustic Sessions – New Alabama music booking firm Rocket City Sounds has started doing some cool acoustic sessions in a big empty house, and the fruits of their labor are visible for the  internet to see. There’s even a new song  from Todd Farrell, 9b regular.

 


ThisIsAmericanMusic_LogoTIAM Spotify Playlists – If you know Ninebullets, you know This Is American Music. Their ‘General Enabler’ Sean Courtney and ‘Quarterback’ Corey Flegel are masters of the art of playlisting. If you have a Spotify account (and there’s really no reason not to at this point), you should check out their public playlists. Summer Nights on the Porch Swing, Southern Indie, and the terrifyingly arousing Flegel Babies: a Journey into Smooth. The people who put out good music also listen to good music, and these guys are some guys to follow.

This has been our Sunday Morning Coming Down edition of Around the Web, with your host, Wolf.

 

INTERVIEW – JOHN MORELAND

John Moreland Loaded

If you don’t know who John Moreland is, it’s safe to stay you stumbled onto this site trying to find small amounts of ammunition for sale. Hello, friend! Put aside your worldly troubles and let’s talk about songs.

I saw John Moreland for the first time this past weekend, and matched my expectations. There was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in Los Angeles while he played “Break My Heart Sweetly” and I didn’t notice. I think that sums everything up.

John was kind enough to take a few minutes and answer some questions outside the bar before his second show on a Saturday night. Here are the questions I asked him and the answers he gave.

9B: How do you feel about the expectation of access to the musicians that fans in our genre of music have? The hanging out before and after shows, the buying shots? 

JM: Usually it’s fine. I’m down to hang out with people, it’s all good stuff. Maybe a couple times it’s been sort of weird, because I’m kind of a quiet dude naturally. I think there have been times when people have thought I was an asshole when I didn’t mean to be, but I just wasn’t as talkative as they would like me to be. Usually it’s okay. Sometimes on tour, you don’t always want to hang out…but most of the time it’s fine. People don’t usually buy me as many shots as they buy Ben Nichols, so that hasn’t been a problem.

9B: A lot of your songs have religious themes or references, but you don’t strike me as a very religious person. Where does that come from?

JM: I grew up religious, in a religious family, so I think it’s just a language that’s natural to me. It’s stuck with me, even though I’m not really in that world any more. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I feel about that stuff now that I’m not an impressionable kid anymore.

9B: Do you ever do research into these stories? Some of your references, like to David and Uriah in “Cataclysm Blues No. 4”, are very specific.

JM: I had to do a lot of research on that one, because I vaguely remembered the characters but didn’t remember what happened. Actually, that one came from Ryan Johnson from American Aquarium. He had an idea to write a whole song based on David and Uriah from Uriah’s point of view. I was going to help him write that song…and then I kind of just stole the idea and used it in my song instead. He had to bring me up to speed on that one. I sort of vaguely remember my bible stories. I used to always be embarrassed in Sunday school because I was like the Sunday school slacker who wasn’t up on all the stories and stuff…but that’s been enough to drop some references in songs and get away with it.

9B: A lot of your songs on In The Throes are love songs…do those come from situations or emotions that are still present in your life?

JM: They’re recurring. It’s stuff that’s always going to come back up. I wrote that stuff, and some of it was written, and I thought that it was over…and I find myself back in the middle of it, maybe with a different person.

9B: Do you keep the same set list for every show? 

JM: Usually I’ve been playing ten or twelve songs. Last night I think I played around twenty, so I just played In The Throes as the first set and about half new songs and half old songs for the second set. I don’t have an exact setlist, but I have a general one in my head. It’s kind of broken into thirds. Certain songs go in the first third, or the middle, or the end. “3:59 AM” I’ve been playing last, I feel like it would be weird to play it third or something. Stuff gets moved around within its section, and certain songs come and go depending on what I feel like doing that night.

9B: Yeah, you played “Smoke and Cigarettes” last night, which was great to hear.

JM: I hadn’t played that one in a while until last night. Brought it back out to kill time, but I kinda dug it. I might start working that one back in.

9B: Talk to me about your ‘No Heroes’ tattoo.

JM: Well, it’s the title of a Converge album that I really like. There are people that I admire, of course, but it’s a reminder to be realistic with that stuff. I go through times where I kind of get caught up with hero worship bullshit. It’s not healthy, and it’s sort of demeaning to yourself. You forget that the people you’re putting on these pedestals are just like you, and you can do whatever you want to do.

9B: Have you played any shows recently with bands that took you by surprise?

JM: The first time I saw Adam Faucett, I’d never heard him before. I’d heard people talking about him, I knew he was from Arkansas. I saw him open for Ben [Nichols], and I ended up playing a couple songs that show even though I wasn’t on the bill. That fucking blew me away. I’ve been addicted to his records ever since. I played with Mark Utley in Cincinatti, he was really great. He had a line that said, “I started smoking again so I could spend more time with you.” I thought that was badass. I remember that. A couple weeks ago in Salt Lake City I played a show with this dude named Sammy Brue. He’s twelve, and he can play finger-style guitar better than me. He’s already really good, it’s just gonna be ridiculous to see how good he is in a few years. That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head.

9b: What have you been listening to on the road?

JM: This tour I’ve been listening to a lot of my friends. A lot of Adam Faucett’s new record, and Lilly Hiatt’s records. Aaron Lee Tasjan, his new EP that just came out…his old band, the Madison Square Gardeners? I’ve known him for a while, but I didn’t know that band until a few weeks ago at South By. I was staying with Chris Porter and Bonnie Whitmore and they showed me that stuff, I was just like, “Holy shit!” I’ve been listening to a lot of Madison Square Gardeners, and George Strait. Driving around Hollywood with the windows down blastic George Strait. That’s probably about it.

9b: What have you been reading on the road?

JM: I just read Willy Vlautin’s new book, called ‘The Free’. I heard about it, but I didn’t remember I heard about it; there’s a Drive-By Truckers song about one of the characters. Somebody in Alabama recommended I check him out. He’s from Portland, he’s in a band called Richmond Fontaine, and when I was going to Portland the other day it crossed my mind. I found it at the fanciest Barnes and Noble I’ve ever been to. So I read that last week, and it was great. Now I’m trying to find more of his books but they’re all out of stock at all the bookstores I can google, so I’m probably just gonna order them when I get home.

Check out John’s website for tour dates, merch, on facebook, and on twitter.

AARON LEE TASJAN – CROOKED RIVER BURNING

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Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. I won two tickets to a show of my choice and picked a night at random; I had a last date planned with a girl I’d been seeing. I knew that I’d only have time to see the opener before heading to another show across town, but hell, free tickets are free tickets. We got to the venue right on time, just as the first act was taking the stage. He was one of the guitarists for the headlining band, but evidently they had him open for them sometimes. Well, alright.

Aaron Lee Tasjan, playing solo acoustic, proceeded to absolutely blow my mind. I had no expectations but was consistently amazed by the quality of his bluesy guitar playing, his lyricism, and songs that could turn on you unexpectedly. I was alternately laughing, stomping, awe-struck, and invigorated. It was the best case scenario of showing up early to catch the opener.

Aaron released his new EP, Crooked River Burning, on Tuesday, March 25. It has two previously unreleased songs, as well as three songs that were on his previous record, The Thinking Man’s Filth. I’m going to save a lot of my accolades for Aaron’s first full-length record, which I hope will not be long in coming. When it comes to this EP, I’ll say that I don’t particularly understand some of the production choices; I feel that Aaron’s strength is in his power as a stripped down force of nature, and layered vocals and instrumentation can distract from that. I’d also have enjoyed seeing more new tracks, having already played the hell out of Thinking Man’s Filth as soon as I knew it existed. But those complaints are minor. Every artist is concerned with their own direction, and Aaron has proved with his songwriting that he’s too smart to be lead someplace he doesn’t want to go.

These tracks are great, the instrumentation is solid, and if you listen hard enough you’ll find a line or two per song that really kick you in your gut. Aaron Lee Tasjan is a train you want to get on early, because it’s gonna get crowded quick. I’m going to let his words from the final moments of his recent Daytrotter session close this review out:

“My name is Aaron Lee Tasjan. I’m living proof that one good hat, a fuzz guitar pedal, and a sordid past can go a long way to keep you in free beer and good company in this man’s America.”

Buy Crooked River Burning on iTunes, and The Thinking Man’s Filth on Bandcamp.

The EP is only 5 tracks, so I’m not going to put them up here, but take a listen to these and pick some music up if you like what you hear.

Don’t Walk Away
Streets of Galilee
Santa Monica & Vine

CAVE STATES – THE GREAT DIVIDE

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Pain can take many different forms. What we’re used to, in this little corner of the musical world, is raw energy and brute force. Even our best singer/songwriters can cut loose when they want to, using volume and power to get the point across from time to time.

Cave States from St. Louis, Missouri has a different delivery. This album, The Great Divide, is delicate. Not every album can have a Tim Barry-style screamer on it, and even Tim Barry parses those out as necessary.  Many of the songs on this album are love songs with lines or choruses that might seem trite at first listen. Taking each song in as a whole, though, you can note hints of unspoken pain.

Cave States takes great care, though, to construct all of the instrumentation and harmony with precision. The opening track, “Loose Shoes”, paints a very specific picture of the possible end of a relationship that’s been around for a while, and what’s it’s like to be the person willing to hold on. Perhaps tellingly, the last track of the album deals with the same theme, asking a loved one to ‘forget about the old days’.

This band is made up of St. Louis locals who have been around the block a few times and decided to band together to put out an album of their own stuff. It’s definitely a mood piece and may not be for everyone, but listening to the first song got me to listen to the rest of it, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need an album to do.

Familiar Ways
Down By The Lake
Loose Shoes

You can buy The Great Divide by Cave States in CD form at Euclid Records, and of course from iTunes or Amazon.

JAMESTOWN REVIVAL – UTAH

Jamestown Revival

In Hollywood it’s very easy to assume the worst of folk bands: once you’ve seen one group of long haired, hat wearing, fitted vest adorned troubadours you feel like you’ve seen them all. Charming stage banter, tight vocal harmonies, polished album production…all of these can easily feel stilted, staged, and engineered. Once in a while, though, something unexpected comes along.

Jamestown Revival is a band from Texas that moved to California and then recorded an album in another western state’s mountains. That eponymously named album, Utah, is Essential Listening.

They seem too good to be true. Too pretty, too talented, too young, too appreciated to live up to any hype. Well fuck that. Don’t let this train pass you by. Whether it’s a barn burner like “Revival” or a slow ballad of a song like “Heavy Heart”, Utah is full of tracks whose melodies and harmonies will be lodged in you long after they’ve stopped playing. Of special note is “Golden Age”, a swan song for an era of country music long gone:

“Good times are over, didn’t you know?

Well I heard it on the radio”

The core of the band is Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, and these two friends work together exceptionally well. They share singing and songwriting duties, with Jon on guitar and Zach on keys. Live, Jamestown Revival is electric. They play for the joy of playing, not for the audience, and they sweat and swear and take shots with the best of them.

Too often in niche music, success is equated with falsehood and disingenuousness. Give Jamestown Revival a chance, catch them while they tour through your town. These are eleven solid tracks, and if you can honestly say there isn’t a single one on this album you love I’ll Paypal you a dollar**.

You can buy Utah by Jamestown revival on iTunes, from their Bandcamp, or grab a physical copy from Amazon.

Golden Age
Revival
California (Cast Iron Soul)
**yeah I said it, chumps

ARLISS NANCY TOUR LOG

GB THE BEACH STORY

Man, if you don’t know who Arliss Nancy is yet (are yet?) then you haven’t been reading this blog for very long. Consider this your education.

Arliss Nancy is five dudes from Ft. Collins, CO. They had an out of nowhere classic with Simple Machines, toured forever on it, and finally came out last year with Wild American Runners. Both album are littered with classics, and were labeled Essential Listening by the fine folks here at Ninebullets.

If you haven’t seen Arliss Nancy live, you’re missing out. Not only because the tightness of their musicianship and vocals have to be heard to be believed, but also because they’re some of the most radical dudes trying to make this music thing happen. I was fortunate enough to spend time with them when they were out here in Los Angeles, and was struck again by how friendly and genuine each of them are. Being a touring band is difficult and thankless, and more bands than any of us could name have fallen apart because they couldn’t handle spending 24 hours a day seven days a week in a passenger van with the same dudes for weeks on end. Much like their music, the friendship of this motley crew has no explanation as to how it’s so good…but the proof, as they say, is in the huevos rancheros.

Go see a show. Tell your friends in other cities to go see shows. Buy a t-shirt (they have like 16 designs or something). Say hi, give a sweaty smelly dude a hug, and tell him how well he played and make up for the shitty 6 hour drive between two dive bars.

Pick up their music on iTunes, or grab physical copies over at Black Numbers.

Benjamin
40s
Wild American Runners

NANCARROW – HEART

Nancarrow - Graham

Sometimes the best thing that music can be is fun. I call fun music I don’t expect to stay in my rotation ‘road trip music’. Nancarrow’s Heart is perfect road trip music. With the Twitter bio of “Farm Raised. Realtor. Country Singer.” it’s clear that Graham Nancarrow isn’t trying to compete with John Moreland or Jason Isbell, but that shouldn’t be a slight against his songs. Fun is fun.

The single from this EP, “Party”, is a bouncy song with a raucous chorus; it’s the kind that stays stuck in your head for a day and a half and you find yourself tapping a toe to without realizing it. Many of these songs are similarly catchy, with brash instrumentation that I imagine would lend to a live performance and lyrics that are relate-able if not insightful.

The imagery of going to a lake and having fun with your friends seems to sum up this record, and that’s the perfect time and place for it. Spend five bucks. Buy this record. Grab some cheap beer and some close friends, and put it on while you swap stories of awful first dates. Get drunk all day. Sleep it off. Play it on the way back, only quieter.

You can get Heart by Nancarrow here.

Party

Heart

Fun