Nowadays, it seems pretty easy to reduce Southern culture to a few reality TV stars with beards and a duck call business. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires are here to remind the world about the complexity and vitality of this
blessed patch of dirt.
On their previous album, There Is a Bomb In Gilead, the band cautiously belted out a fine mix of country, southern rock, and soul music. Dereconstructed is their first album for the venerable Sub Pop label,and builds on the successes of their first record while backing them up with increased confidence and volume.
Lead off single and album opener, “The Company Man” serves as a statement of intent and an introduction to the current, road-tested lineup of The Glory Fires. The ragged opening riff propels the song forward into an onslaught of guitars pushed into the red by Bains and new addition, Eric Wallace. It’s a classic Southern Rock anthem that’s built to be catchy, but offers surprising
lyrical depth. Lee has a knack for examining social issue particular to the South. The title track turns the fire and brimstone of a Southern Baptist preacher on its head and begins to spell out a new way of thinking for a generation of Southerners that are smart, tolerant, and equal.
The thematically related, “The Kudzu and The Concrete” and “The Weeds Downtown” take a
look at living in the a post white flight Birmingham. Both songs touch on the realities of growing up at the foot of a bustling Southern city, but also identifying with your country roots. “The Weeds Downtown” in particular is an anthem for the revitalization and rebranding of downtown Birmingham. Where our parents generation saw danger, Bains and the rest of us see opportunity.
The second side of the record sees the band continuing in the politically minded vein of the first side with the one-two punch of “We Dare Defend Our Rights!”, and “Flags”. In previous generations, Alabama’s state motto was used as a symbol for defending the racist status quo, but Baines takes a look at the motto and turns it around by making it a rallying cry for a new generation of proud, progressive citizens.
To finish up the record, Bains delivers what I think is the best song of the album. “Dirt Track”, like all great southern food and art, works on several levels. The song relates Alabama’s history in stock car racing to DIY punk rock; the dirt track of the music business. The song’s late break and triumphant finish offers a capstone for the record, bringing everything full circle.
Bains and Co. offer the next logical step beyond the storytelling of bands like the Drive By Truckers, by getting down into the nitty gritty of living in a rapidly evolving South. There’s a sense of wrestling and reckoning with our shared past, but an unending faith and hope in our shared future. Dereconstructed offers an alternative to the duck call Disney World South that’s presented on TV and gives an authentic look into being an intelligent, proud southerner.