The raucous spirit of punk and garage rock embraces the spiritual and socio-political bent of Southern songwriting in the music of up-and-coming outfit Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires. Often compared to kindred spirits like Drive-By Truckers and Alabama Shakes, they’ve received critical acclaim from far and wide, including The New York Times, NPR and the Wall Street Journal. Tonight, Levitteers in Hattiesburg, Miss., get to experience their raw energy at a free show as part of the Levitt AMP Hattiesburg Music Series – they take the stage at 8PM!
A few seconds into the band’s 2014 album, “Dereconstructed,” and it’s clear that this is a no-nonsense Southern group. A distorted, chugging guitar riff paves the way for a song titled, “The Company Man,” filled with anthemic, fist-pumping critiques of capitalist businessmen. The rest of the album is a similarly rollicking good time filled with subtle dashes of blues, Americana and honky-tonk. Moreover, there’s the tried-and-tested themes of Southern rock – history, traditions and a strong sense of identity. Songs like “The Kudzu and The Concrete,” with descriptions of vintage cars, Southern food and dilapidated rural infrastructure, paint a vivid image of the surroundings the band finds themselves in. NPR’s review of “Dereconstructed” praised the album for addressing “eternal questions with an earnestness and conviction reflective of this century’s direct-action-oriented activists”.
The New York Times’ 2014 piece, ‘Southern Rock, Proudly Revised’ applauds The Glory Fires’ “proud Southern rock with 21st-century momentum.” Indeed, there is a conscious, contemporary method to the madness in their music. In a piece by Greenville Journal, the band members mention the intense, studio-driven process of writing the follow up to “Dereconstructed” – a 17-song, message-driven double LP titled “Youth Detention.” So seemingly long and unwieldy was the album that Sub Pop Records, who released the preceding album, actually rejected the album, leaving the band members quite disconcerted. But they stood by their art. “It was not the record they were expecting, but they wanted us to think about cutting some songs, and we were like, ‘No, this is it. This is the record,’” said Lee Bains III, the band’s lead singer. Shortly after, the band connected with another label (Don Giovanni) in New Jersey who agreed to put out what Greenville Journal describes as “fiercely political” and “the band’s best work yet.”
“Youth Detention” is a continued story of the South, with a heavier focus on issues that contemporary and indie artists don’t often articulate. Songs like “Underneath the Sheets of White Noise” and “Black and White Boys” mince no words when discussing racial tensions, identity politics and the prejudice that still plagues much of their native town, Birmingham, Ala., as well as surrounding towns and states. Musically, we see the band infusing their usual powerhouse style with nuanced elements, like gospel organs, acoustic guitar and piano. Take for example, the melancholy yet hopeful “Nail My Feet to The Southside of Town,” where descriptions of their hometown’s odd beauty against a slower tempo display unabashed Southern pride. Mother Jones magazine fell in love with the album, saying that their “incendiary tunes supply a jolt of purifying righteous noise.”
Levitteers in Hattiesburg will love the gloriously emphatic and unapologetic sound of this unique band shaping a new identity in Southern rock. With an opening set from The Cynical Twins, of Jackson, Miss., get ready for a night of guitar-heavy goodness and powerful lyrics at the Levitt AMP Hattiesburg Music Series!