Showing posts with label Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires. Show all posts

Mar 23, 2020

10 Positive Jams for Unsettled Times

By Matthew Martin

We're in weird, uncertain times. There's no doubt about that. We're living in the midst of what has been labeled by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic. And, to make matters worse, we're seeing unemployment begin to tick up due to people losing their jobs as service industries begin losing patrons. Where are those patrons? Well, we're inside. We're wondering what comes next. And, many of us turn to music in times of happiness, grief, and every emotion in between. 

I was sitting around yesterday trying to work (it's a little hard to focus these days) and a friend asked if I had any uplifting music recommendations. It got me thinking- we could all use a positive jams list. So, I am going to start this thing off with my 10 favorite positive, uplifting songs. Go ahead and let me know what songs you turn to in the comments or via twitter (@rnrmeanswell) and let's get positive here. Also, side bar- if you're struggling with this, please reach out to loved-ones and friends or even me via Twitter. We'll get through this. In the meantime, wash your hands and practice social distancing to flatten the curve!

10- Frank Turner- I Still Believe: A treatise on coming together over the universal language of Rock and Roll. If that doesn't scream positivity and inclusivity perfectly, I don't know what does. Frank Turner puts out some impossibly positive music for any occasion, but this is the one I always go back to in order to bring myself back down to earth. "Remember folks, we're not just saving lives, we're saving souls and we're having fun!" I will forever smile at that line.

9- Lucero- Sounds Of The City: For a band that is known for heartbreakers and drunken ballads, this song is a real barn-burner about falling in love. From the organ to the horns, this song incorporates all the happy sounds. And, falling in love is always a good memory. Yeah, sometimes it might not end well, but that initial falling is a hell of a feeling. This song evokes that feeling of falling in love, dancing drunkenly, and the white noise that seems to fill your ears when that person is around you and everyone else is drowned out.

8- J Roddy Walston & The Business- Don't Break The Needle: Not much to say here except if you don't find yourself movin’ and shakin’ during the chorus, maybe you just need to turn it up!

7- The Hold Steady- Stay Positive: The ultimate positive band, in my mind. Even their bummer songs have some glimmer of hope. And this song is the one feels like the song we should turn to in order to feel better about things to come. You gotta stay positive.

6- Alabama Shakes- Hold On: Another self-explanatory song. I mean, the song is killer, it completely rocks, and it has a really simply message. That message is to just hold on, you'll get through it. When this song came out a few years ago, I think I listened to this song more than any other song that year. And what better time to crank this one up.

5- Professor Longhair- Tipitina: I'll be honest, Professor Longhair pretty recently came into my orbit and damn I'm glad he did. This song, which is what the famous music club in New Orleans is named after, is a straight boogie. The Professor knows how to get folks moving and with this non-sensical (but it makes so much sense) song, go ahead and forget all your troubles of the day.

4- Japandroids- Adrenaline Nightshift: When I think of albums that make me smile just thinking of them, Celebration Rock is usually the first one to come to mind. The album is full of fast-paced, fist-pumping, sing-along songs. There's no better album to feel alive to. And this is the one song that exemplifies the album the best. "There's no high like this!"

3- Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires- Dirt Track: I dunno if there's any song that takes me back to the sweltering days of my Southern Summer days more than this one. That dirty, swampy guitar and back beat practically drip humidity. Not to mention the song's whole premise is just to keep it moving. Don't give up! So, I highly recommend cranking this one up as loud as possible and boogie like hell during the breakdown. Can't tell y'all how many times I've done that. Damn, I love this band.

2- Glossary- Trouble Won't Last Always: This is the first song I thought about when my buddy asked me about positive songs. Glossary is also one of those bands who really seemed to excel at the positive song. It seems like something a little hard in the whole Americana/Country genre, but they nailed it. And, this song epitomizes everything we all love about Glossary. Go ahead and listen to the whole album this song is from, Long Live All Of Us. That's it, that's what it's all about. I'll let Glossary sum up my feelings completely, "When trouble comes around, Like it surely will, Remember you were happy once, And you can be happy still." 

1- Hank Williams- I Saw The Light: There's something about Hank that always makes me smile, no matter how dark the song. Maybe it's the fact that he is by far and away my 92-year old Granddad's favorite musician. Maybe it's the fact that I find something new to love about Hank with every listen of every weird collection of music. But, nonetheless, I smile. And the one that makes me smile the most is I Saw The Light. Whether or not you're religious, there is something comforting about a Spiritual song. Hank nails this one with a cathartic wail. I think his version on The Complete Health and Happiness Recordings is the best version. It's uplifting, his voice is like a whip-crack, and the Drifting Cowboys sound like they are enjoying themselves (probably one of few times they did). Find whatever light you want to find and focus on that. 

So there you have it. My favorites. These can, and probably will, change over the next couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy these and you show me a few I should add to my list. Until next time, keep it on the dirt track.

Jun 30, 2017

Album Review: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires - Youth Detention

by Matthew Martin
We're in an age of unfettered voicing of opinions.  Maybe it's always been this way bubbling just beneath the surface, but with social media and 24-hour news, that squall is reaching a fever pitch.  Each side is pissed and each side fears the other.  It's in this vein that a lot of great music is made.

In the times of slavery, the spiritual was a song or a chant decrying the atrocities happening to those slaves.  During the Civil Rights movement, countless artists and songs decried the tragedies happening to the weakest among us.  In the 90s and 2000s, hardcore and punk bands railed against the state of the world- from consumerism to seemingly constant war.  I say all this to simply state that music is release.  It's an artist's take on their world view.  Sometimes that view may not be our view, but it's an important view and one we shouldn't scoff at or denounce, but take that view and check it against our own world view.

In 2014, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires released the incredible, loud, in-your-face Southern punk rock album Dereconstructed.  I said when I first heard that album, and still believe, that there hadn't been an album that important to the South since Drive-By Truckers' Southern Rock Opera.  It was an album that took the quick-paced Southern rock on their first album and ratcheted up the guitar and turned a mirror on the South's transgressions while still maintaining that love most of us Southerners have for our region.  Bains and crew have once again taken a look at the South as a microcosm of the nation on Youth Detention and tackle it the only way we Southerners know how to- loud, abrasive, and mad as hell.

In the first five songs, Bains tackles injustices that happen to those that aren't powerful ("Good Old Boy" is a minute and a half of pure adrenaline-fueled punk) and then hits the nail on the head with "Whitewash."  While the song is slower than the first four, it's the one that hit me the hardest.  With lyrics battling what it means to lose a sense of self and place over time, including our Southern accents (this hit close for me because after moving out of the deep South, I've mostly lost my Southern accent), "Birthmarks to be scrubbed away," Bains sings.

"Underneath the Sheets of White Noise" is a song that LB3 & The Glory Fires were meant to play.  It's a damn good song full of the social commentary we've come to expect from Bains played again, fast and loud.  The surprise song on the album to me is "Crooked Letters."  This song is a typical Bains song with a trudging guitar riff and bass line with lyrics damning and self-reflective at once.  However, it has a loop played mostly throughout of children chanting the chant most of us in the South used to learn to spell Mississippi.  Upon first listen, I was a little turned off by this addition, but to be honest, I can't imagine this song without that loop now.  It's going to be odd to hear the song live without the chant!

The next four songs- "I Can Change!" to "Nail My Feet Down to the Southside of Town"- are the best batch of songs on the album with "I Can Change!" coming in at one of my favorite LB3 songs ever.  The driving guitar with squelching feedback are perfect backdrops for a song that grapples with guilt, ultimately delivering "Guilt is not a feeling, it's a natural fact."

The album ends with two damn good songs- the first being "Commencement Address for the Deindustrialized Dispersion" which again deals with the dispersion of Southern people to other areas, but ends with the chorus "May we all grow old and free, And wander home again."  Amen, Lee, amen.  And "Save My Life!" takes us home with a pure Southern rock and roll song about the life-saving and life-changing nature of rock and roll.  That's what it's all about, man.  Rock and roll is good for the soul.  It releases something in us all.

Clocking in at around an hour and 17 songs, Youth Detention is a break-neck speed of an album touching on everything a good punk album should.  If you don't like your music loud and your artists' opinions worn on their sleeves like a badge of honor, then Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires likely isn't for you.  But, if you're willing to challenge yourself and your beliefs and like your music loud, brash, and full of life, then this is for you. Bains' voice is as good as ever and the band is as tight as you'd expect a band that's been together this long to be.  This is album will be one of my favorites of the year.  If you've never seen the band live, go see 'em.  But, dear Lord, wear ear plugs...


Youth Detention is available on Amazon, iTunes, etc.

Sep 30, 2016

Album Review: Drive-by Truckers - American Band

A review by Matthew Martin

As I was listening to this album it hit me hard that this is the album I've been missing.  The logical next step in recent Southern albums that are more or less overtly political- from Southern Rock Opera to Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires' Dereconstructed to now, American Band.  It never resonated with me to listen to some person from the North (or Midwest or West) to talk about these issues, because they weren't/aren't from here- they don't grasp the subtleties.  To hear it from Southern voices, that talk the way I grew up talking, that use the same cadence and same odd slang I use, that's something entirely different.  And, to be clear, I don't think you HAVE to be a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, to fully appreciate the political air of this album and what it means for Southerners (and the country) right now.

Drive-By Truckers have always been somewhat political.  Whether or not they were overt was dependent upon the song, but you can't get more political than past songs "The Righteous Path," "Uncle Frank," "Puttin People On The Moon," or "Wallace."  They may not be set in the current time period, but they are political powerhouses nonetheless.  Interestingly, it's always seemed that Patterson Hood was the one who was willing to delve a bit more into the political side of songwriting, until American Band.  (Which, can I just say as a side note is a perfect name for this album.  A political album by a band from the South called American Band.  No other regional distinction necessary.)  Now we have Mike Cooley really diving deep into the same waters and we are much, much better for it.

I've always been more of a Patterson Hood fan when it comes to songwriting- I like his storytelling and fierceness.   Don't get me wrong, I've always loved Cooley as well, but Hood has always hit a little closer to home for me.  However, on American Band, Cooley has the knock-out punches to me with "Ramon Casiano," "Once They Banned Imagine," "Surrender Under Protest," and "Filthy and Fried."  I mean, when Cooley sings "to half-cocked excuses for bullet abuses regarding anything browner than tan," on "Once They Banned Imagine," it's heavy.  That line got me like a punch in the gut.  The other Cooley songs on the album are wonderful takedowns of the good ol' boy South.  Whatever, or whoever, got us thinking we are too macho, or stubborn, to accept any sort of change has been detrimental to ourselves- and more importantly, those who chose to leave- in so many ways.  The South has been dealing with "brain-drain" for years and I can tell you firsthand, some of us want to go back to a better South, not the same old South.

Back to the album though!  For Hood, his two songs "Guns of Umpqua" and "What It Means" stand to be two of my favorite Hood songs of all time.  "Guns of Umpqua" paints an incredibly eerie and horrible picture of someone on the verge of getting gunned down in the community college shooting.  "What It Means" questions the recent violence on young black men in America and what that means for us as a nation.  These are supremely touching songs and I can't imagine the DBT catalog without them already.

At the albums core, American Band is all about dealing with the current state of the American way of life.  Where do we go from here?  How do we process the last couple of years of utter outrage and fear?  At what point do we start the healing process?  I think it can begin at any moment we want it to, but we have to start asking ourselves the tough questions, and that can begin with those of us in, or from, the South.  Southerners are strong people, mentally and physically.  I miss the South I grew up in where hatred sure didn't seem so prevalent (although I'm sure it was there).  American Band is a good starting point, so go listen and listen with friends and family.  Ask yourselves what it means.  Now, let's see where we can go from here and let's be better.


American Band is available today on all modes of ingesting music.

Sep 28, 2016

Song Premiere: The Dexateens - "Alabama Redneck"

We've got a cool song premiere today from The Dexateens, who are happily back in action these days. I think you'll see (hear) that the song is highly appropriate for a FTM premiere.  The Dexateens are a highly recommended band for fans of Lucero, Arliss Nancy, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, and Two Cow Garage. 
Back in 2011, the group was poised for a breakthrough when singer/guitarist Elliott McPherson decided he was through with touring and the group disbanded. In the off years, bassist Matt Patton went on to become a full-time member of Drive-By Truckers, and guitarist Lee Bains left the band to launch a promising solo career on Sub Pop Records.

A major casualty of The Dexateens’ breakup was their classic lineup's unreleased Southern-garage swan song, Teenage Hallelujah, which—for the last five years—has been sitting completely finished collecting dust in storage. Until now. The recently reunited Dexateens—with the exception of Bains, whose spot has been filled by Taylor Hollingsworth (Dead Fingers, Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band)—are playing shows once again, and have also been working on a new record with Mark Nevers of Lambchop. But in honor of the brilliance that was, Teenage Hallelujah is finally being released Oct. 7 on Cornelius Chapel Records.

New single "Alabama Redneck" is a scathing garage-country critique of modern pop country music as told through frontman Elliott McPherson's acerbic wit and southern drawl.

 Social Media: Facebook -
Website -
Twitter - @dexateens
Preorder: Itunes

Sep 7, 2016

Exclusive Video Premiere: M. Lockwood Porter - "American Dreams Denied"

M. Lockwood Porter
In the past three years, roots-rocker/folk-singer M. Lockwood Porter has released two albums and toured all over the US, sharing bills with the likes of American Aquarium, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Water Liars and John Moreland. He has also performed at festivals like Outside Lands, Noise Pop, the Norman Music Festival and CMJ, and has been covered previously by PopMatters, Paste, Daytrotter, Nine Bullets, No Depression and more.

Porter's new record How to Dream Again will be released Sept. 15 via Black Mesa Records. New single and video "American Dreams Denied” is an overdriven anthem brimming with millennial post-recession frustration, while channeling the red, white & blue grandeur of Bruce Springsteen in an unabashedly personal and political tune.

RIYL: Dylan, Conor Oberst, early Wilco, The Hold Steady, Bruce Springsteen

Pre-Order Links for How to Dream Again:

His Bandcamp:
US Label:

More information on M. Lockwood Porter and his music below the video!

And now the premiere of Porter's "American Dreams Denied!"


The Berkeley, California-based singer-songwriter M. Lockwood Porter is part of a promising crop of up-and-coming Americana singer-songwriters. In the past three years, he has released two critically-acclaimed albums and performed all over the US, sharing the stage with acts like American Aquarium, David Wax Museum, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Water Liars, Samantha Crain, David Ramirez, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and John Moreland. He has performed at festivals like Outside Lands, Noise Pop, Norman Music Festival, and CMJ. No Depression called Porter’s 2014 album 27 “a solid album worth your time, attention, and money." In a review of 27, Americana UK said, "Take care with M. Lockwood Porter. He is an important singer-songwriter.”

Porter, who got his start in music playing in punk bands in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was in high school, is resistant to simple categorization, though. Like Conor Oberst or Jeff Tweedy, his songs are equal parts traditional songcraft and indie rock attitude. “I get called an Americana singer, and I get why. But it’s a narrow label. I still have this punk rock point of view that, whenever I’m around a bunch of people that are doing something similar, makes me want to take a left turn.”

How To Dream Again – tracked live in three days with minimal overdubs – is one of those left turns. While Porter dabbled in lush country-rock and expansive power pop on 27, How To Dream Again sounds tougher and leaves more space. The band – consisting of Porter, Peter Labberton, Bevan Herbekian, and Jeff Hashfield, and John Calvin Abney – sounds tight and heavy, like Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers if they’d cut their teeth at CBGB. The acoustic songs are raw and haunting, recalling Springsteen’s Nebraska.

The heartbreak and existential crises of 27 have been replaced with boldness, wisdom, and a deeper level of self-examination. “I’m in love, in a very healthy, serious relationship, and I’m happier with where I’m at in terms of my music, but with being further along in my personal life come new questions like “How do you maintain what’s good about a relationship? How do you keep it from going stale?” “Burn Away”, “Bright Star”, and “Strong Enough”, all ostensibly love songs, are really about the uncertainty inherent in love – that there is no guarantee that it will last forever.

Porter – who has degrees in English and American History from Yale University and taught English at an inner-city middle school for four years – has also rediscovered an interest in social justice and activism. “I started teaching because I wanted to help make the world a better place. When I quit teaching to do music full-time, I shut off that part of my brain. As an independent musician, you spend so much time thinking about your career that it can be hard to make room for anything else. At one point last year, I realized that I had no idea what was going on in the world anymore. I felt like I had run out of things to talk about, and I needed to refill my brain.”

The result was a year of re-education. Porter read extensively – progressive writers like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Thomas Piketty – and took time to rethink what he wanted to write about. “I strive for 100% honesty in my songwriting, and that means I have to write about what’s on my mind and in my heart even if it scares me. I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of writing songs that might be interpreted as political. But that’s why I knew I had to – because I was afraid to.”

Porter immersed himself in the works of topical songwriters – some obvious influences (Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan) and others less so (Joe Strummer, Public Enemy’s Chuck D). In the process, he learned about Joe Hill – the protest singer and IWW labor organizer who was executed on highly questionable charges almost exactly 100 years ago. “I went to this Joe Hill tribute at a small cafĂ© in Oakland on the 100th anniversary of his death in November. I didn’t know very much about him when I went, but I came away really inspired.” So inspired, in fact, that Porter wrote the song “Joe Hill’s Dream” shortly afterwards – at once an examination of Hill’s legacy and a lament for our current dearth of songs addressing collective struggles.

Porter attempts to make up for this lack throughout the album. “American Dreams Denied” and “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be” are anthems of millennial post-recession frustration. “Sad/Satisfied” and “Dream Again” trace Porter’s evolution from a navel-gazing songwriter into a more thoughtful, outward-looking artist. “Charleston” was inspired by the horrific June 2015 mass shooting at an African-Americanchurch in Charleston, South Carolina.

The album’s centerpiece, though, is “Reach The Top”, a five-and-a-half minute dissertation critiquing the philosophy underpinning theAmerican Dream, tying together its myriad consequences – isolation, materialism, depression, suicide, drug use, destruction of unions, college debt, gentrification, police brutality, media distortion, and American imperialism – using nothing but his voice, a guitar, and a harmonica. This song alone is a strong case that this California-based Okie transplant may be Guthrie’s closest modern heir.

On How To Dream Again, M. Lockwood Porter blends the personal and political in a way that is courageous, moving, and representative of this historical moment. “I can’t have a conversation with anyone my age right now without talking about things like inequality, gentrification, racial injustice, student debt, or climate change. I wanted to make a piece of art that captures this time, where daily life is political.” Yet at its core, this album is a very personal statement from a thoughtful, daring young artist. “The album is called How To Dream Again because it’s about trying to change my priorities – from chasing dreams of individual success to dreaming about creating something bigger than myself, whether that’s being in love or building a better world.”

Sep 2, 2015

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires Perform "Sweet Disorder"

Our favorite loud social-justice-minded punk-rootsers Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires tear into their new single, the Stonesy "Sweet Disorder."

Jan 5, 2015

Matthew Martin's Top 10 Albums of 2014

10. St. Paul & The Broken Bones - Half The City
This AL band generated quite the buzz before this album ever hit shelves - and with good reason.  This album is full of near-perfect throwback soul/funk gems that Alabama is getting good at reviving.


9. Gary Clark Jr. - Live
The first time I ever actually heard Gary Clark Jr was when I saw him live in Baltimore at a small venue called the 8x10. When I heard his debut album, I wasn't in love because of the slick production and added, unnecessary instruments.  That's why I think this album is so essential.  This is GCJr at his best.  Live, blistering, and unrelenting.


8. Natural Child - Dancin' With Wolves
I don't want to say Natural Child hit their stride on this album, but rather, they hit their comfort zone. Adding pedal steel and keys to the band, they have created, essentially, a modern day Harvest.


7. Mastodon - Once More Round The Sun
This happens to be my favorite Mastodon record to date. While that may not be a popular opinion among some Mastodon faithful,  I believe this is Mastodon doing what they do best.  Each song hits at break-neck speed and by the time you reach the last quarter of the album,  you equally beg for the onslaught to cease and to continue.


6. Lucero - Live From Atlanta
Another live album on this list because of how significant I think this one is.  Lucero is a great band.  They have transitioned from a cowpunk band to this band we have today at little-to-no detriment to their core sound.  This album is document of that complete transformation and more proof that if you have not seen Lucero live, you have to do so immediately.


5. Drive-by Truckers - English Oceans
Cooley. Really, the review could end there, but what fun would that be? With Cooley and Hood splitting the duties here, this album finds the Drive-By Truckers yet again reworking the band and creating something even stronger and tighter.  While I, unabashedly, really have enjoyed most of what DBT have put out, this album will arguably stand out as one of their greatest.


4. The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams
I don't even know what to say about this album. It's great. There isn't a bad song on here. When I first listened, I'll admit, I was a little taken aback by the production quality (maybe too slick?), but as time has gone on and I've listened to the album numerous times, I have realized that there is not one thing wrong with this album.


3. Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
On importance alone, this album deserves to be in the #1 spot.  But, this album happened to be released in a year that 2 other great albums were also released.  Musically and lyrically, this is a near perfect album.  Laura Jane Grace sings her heart out about a hell few of us know much about.  Give this album a listen, then listen again, then listen one more time.  It's absolutely stellar.


2. Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Another important album- albeit for different reasons- Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music attempts to take everything we know about traditional country music and turn it on its head.  Simpson sings about LSD, reptile aliens, and love- all on the first track of the album.  As the album progresses, it's clear you're listening to something familiar and incredibly unique all at once.  Country music fans have been waiting for something like this, and I hope this album clears the path for other artists more inclined to sing about interesting topics- rather than trucks, beer, and backroads.


1. Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires - Dereconstructed
Speaking of important albums, I'm not sure there has been a more important Southern album.  This one came out and completely shattered my expectations.  Taking shots at the Southern ideology that still permeates some of Southern culture, the album is important because it shows that you can love something so much that you can recognize the attributes that sicken you and try to attack those head-on.  The South is a great place, but there are lots of things, past and present, that are nauseating.  LB3 attacks every angle with pinpoint accuracy.  And, let's not forget the incredible music on this album.  LB3 and band sound perfect on this album with, in my opinion, perfect production styles suited to the band's sound and style.  Oh, and if you haven't read Bitter Southerner's write-up on this band and album, please do so now!

By Matthew Martin

May 28, 2014

New Video: Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires - The Company Man

From their ear-splitting new album, Dereconstructed, here's Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires with the video for "The Company Man."

May 27, 2014

Album Review: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires - Dereconstructed

Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires is another act who has progressed beyond the need for blogs and websites of Farce the Music's calibre to review and promote. I didn't discover the band or anything, but it's still pretty cool to have been in their corner when most of the world had yet to be exposed to their brand of highly intelligent and extremely loud southern rock. (Humble-brag? Who me?) Now the boys are signed to Sub Pop and have big promotion and an adoring media to their advantage. They're supposed to change their approach and sound so as many people as possible can appreciate them, right?

If you base your opinion only on their previous album, LBIIITGF did change their sound. However, if anything, they made it less accessible. Anyone who's seen the band in concert knows that Dereconstructed is more of a true look at who they really are - too loud for listening rooms, too garage-rock for country, too country for rock radio, too smart for southern rock, and too rural to be hipsters. These contrasts play into what makes the new release so great.

Dereconstructed loudly takes on the "duality of the Southern thing" that Drive-by Truckers explored years ago on Southern Rock Opera. LBIII does it their own way: angry, political at times, and amped-up at nearly all times. The lyrics, which you may or may not be able to make out without reading the album booklet, are smart, poetic and often biting.

The songs touch on race, religion, corporate greed, cultural identity, urban decay, urban sprawl, and other serious topics without ever sounding overbearing or being devoid of fun. The fact that your face is being rocked off the entire time makes this record just as enjoyable for people who aren't that deep anyway.

It's difficult to pick a standout track, but I suppose "Burnpiles, Swimming Holes" would take that title for me. It's an order to "get off the f***ing internet" and have a good time in the real world. It's a praise anthem for the simple pleasures of rural leisure time. "The Weeds Downtown" and "Dirt Track" are two other favorites, but there's nothing here worth skipping.

I will readily admit that I'd rather this album be a continuation of There is a Bomb in Gilead, which was less confrontational in tone and subject matter, but this is the album Lee and the guys needed to make. While it's less personally satisfying, there is no question that Dereconstructed is a better album in nearly every aspect. The interplay of the musicians is stronger, the already solid songwriting is sharper, and the message carries more weight. 

Whether you're a fan of the unabated rocking, the compassionate and highly literate writing, or both, Dereconstructed is a stunning success by any measure. Highly recommended.

Dereconstructed is available at Amazon, iTunes, and Sub Pop.

May 13, 2014

Live Review: Alabama Shakes with Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires

Alabama Shakes w/Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
Apr. 25, 2014 - 9:30 Club, Washington, DC

By Matthew Martin

It's been a while since I've written up any shows I've been to, and in the time that has past I've been to quite a few.  However, I just didn't think they were worth writing about.  Not because they weren't good enough.  Maybe I just hit a lull in writing, or maybe I felt like things got just a little bit blurry near the end of the show.  So, I put off writing anything.  Until, now.  I come back to you guns blazing with a review of one of the best shows I've been a part of in the past 2-3 years.

There are few things in this world better than a show on a Friday night.  The release of all emotions that comes with a great show.  The suspension of anything that is happening in your life.  And, of course, the pure joy of being with 1200+ (in the case of a 9:30 Club show) of your newest friends.

This was absolutely the case on Friday April 25th, 2014 at 9:30 Club when Alabama Shakes made their triumphant return to 9:30 Club and D.C.  I believe the last time they were in D.C. was in 2012 with the Drive-By Truckers.  And shortly after that, they headlined the Rams Head stage in Baltimore with a band opening for them I had never heard of- Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires.  I happened to be at that show, and both bands shook me, albeit in different ways.  So, when I found out that this same line-up would be coming back to D.C., I (im)patiently waited for the tickets to go on sale on the 9:30 Club website and got secured my spot to a show that sold-out in 5 minutes.

First up, Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires came out and ripped through a set that seemed like a cocaine-fueled punk version of Southern rock & roll.  I do not know how else to put it.  They are a stunning band and watching them on stage is incredible.  Guitars are up to 11, drums are relentlessly pounded, and the bass is forcefully plucked.  Songs from their first album, There Is A Bomb In Gilead, are amped up to a 100 mph speed.  Songs like "Red Red Dirt of Home" have the tempo increased and the songs are transformed.  It works.  I actually prefer the faster versions.  It seems this is the speed Bains and crew are more comfortable in.  When you hear the new album, Dereconstructed, it's clear that this is the new Glory Fires sound: loud, fast, and pissed off.  The set closed with the new song "Dirt Track" of the new album.  It was during this time that the guitarist, to the cheers of 1200+ people, got on Bains' shoulders and both proceeded to give killer solos.  The set lasted about 50 minutes and seemed far too short.  It's fair to say, the boys gained a hell of a lot of new fans that night.

Now the wait for Alabama Shakes began and the crowd was beginning to become electrified.  There was a buzz in the air unlike any show I've been to in a really long time.  Folks seemed not quite sure what to expect.  After all, Alabama Shakes have released exactly one album (Boys and Girls), and that was in 2011- three years ago!  

Needless to say, Brittany Howard and crew still had it.  They had the crowd in the palm of their collective hand from the opening note of the opening song.  By the time they reached "Hold On," I thought the place was going to come down.  I have seen many shows at 9:30 Club and I can honestly say that I have never heard the crowd roar as loud as I heard when they ended that song.

They ripped through the majority of their debut album along with a few others that were new, and some that were B-sides and singles; i.e., "Always Alright" and "Heavy Chevy."  Throughout the show, it was clear that Brittany had gained a new confidence that I didn't quite recall from the show in Baltimore a few years back.  This confidence went a long way that night.  She owned the stage.  She proved that being a frontwoman can be a hard and easy task all in one.  She roamed the stage, looking at everyone, singing to them.  I witnessed first hand, I suppose, what it means to gain that confidence and what a difference that made.

By the time the show ended, everyone was wearing the biggest smiles.  Something pretty awesome had just been seen, and no one was quite ready for that.  To be impressed by a band is one thing, but to be blown away by the complete package is another.  We were lucky that night to be in the latter group.  If it sounds like I'm gushing, I am.  We all knew Alabama Shakes had talent.  We knew that they made catchy-as-hell songs.  I'm just not quite sure we expected to be blown away.  

As I always say, go see these bands - both of them! - when they come anywhere near you.  I'm confident that you won't be disappointed.  Until then, go buy their music.  Support them.  Let's keep these folks around for as long as we can.  It's a short lifespan sometimes in rock and roll, but these folks deserve to be old-timers.  As Lee Bains III sang, "keep on rollin, keep it on the dirt track."

Mar 19, 2014

OMG Reviews: Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires - The Company Man

by Brittany Fant, 15-year-old music fan and aspiring reviewer

Listen Here

My ears!!! OMG this is so friggin' loud! I usually review country and pop here, but Trailer gave me this rock song to listen to for this write up and now I have a headache. I read somewhere that this band got arrested for being too loud in Texas or something. I mean, that's pretty cool, but maybe Texas was right. The guitars are loud and twangy. The drums are loud and fast. And Lee Bains III sings loud. LOUD LOUD LOUD. It sounds like they're breaking dishes with baseball bats in a garage full of cranked tractors. I don't really know what they're singing about… I mean, a company man, sure. And I heard something about Georgia Pacific… maybe? Don't trust the people who make toilet paper? Why? I guess this might be catchy to some people who like to slam dance at a biker bar or something. My sweetie Hunter Hayes(!!) would probably cry if he heard this song and I can't say I blame him. It hurts. Now, this Lee Bains III guy is kind of cute, to be honest.

Maybe if he'd tone it down a little and sing more about love and dancing and bonfires, these guys might could make it big! Right now though, my ears are ringing and I need an Advil.

I'll give this 2 pair of heart hands since it isn't whiney old country music and Lee is kinda hot, lol.

Jan 10, 2013

FTM Top Albums of '12: Matthew's Top 10

-By Matthew Martin

1- Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires, "There is a Bomb in Gilead"- My God!  No band surprised me more this year than Birmingham's own Lee Bains III.  I witnessed them open up for Alabama Shakes in Baltimore and was just floored by these guys.  Evoking that Southern, soulful voice akin to fellow Alabama native Jason Isbell, Bains and his incredibly gifted band-mates have created an album that continues to grow stronger and stronger with each listen. 

2- American Aquarium, "Burn. Flicker. Die"- We've all heard it before, right?  Band hits road.  Band tries to make it.  Band gets weary.  Band breaks up.  This is where we meet BJ Barham and his band American Aquarium on their latest release: between weary and callin it quits.  What makes an album great is taking a subject we've heard and making it sound new and fresh.  Barham has done this to perfection with his road weary songs.  American Aquarium has had some really good albums, but this album achieves far beyond good- it is truly great.

3- The Pollies, "Where the Lies Begin"- Another great band from Alabama- there must be something in the water down there.  Listening to this album for the first time was such an awesome experience that I wish I could listen for the first time again.  I'm not sure you can get much better for a debut album.  Everything on this album works perfectly- from the interplay of instruments to the Jim James-esque echo vocal effects.  Just try to listen to this album and not be taken aback.  

4- Titus Andronicus, "Local Business"- Everyone's favorite Nihilistic band came back from their massively heavy and successful 2010 album "The Monitor" to record a more basic rock and roll record.  Recorded with the same 4 folks who had been touring for the last few months as Titus Andronicus, this album hits the ground running and really never lets up.  This album has less of the bombast than the previous 2 albums (i.e., no spoken intros, no droning noise, etc.), but Patrick Sickles and crew still run through 7+ minute songs at break-neck speed.  

5- Lucero, "Women & Work"- I don't know how Lucero continue to get better, but they do.  Taking the Memphis soul sound they incorporated on "1372 Overton Park," they honed their sound in to make this incredible album.  The songs on this album are your typical Lucero songs, but then you add in songs such as "Sometimes" and "Go Easy" and you have possibly their best album since "That Much Further West."  Some folks don't like the horn section Lucero have taken up, but I couldn't be more on board.  It works incredibly well for their sound and Nichols' gruff voice.  (Also, anyone else notice "Like Lightning" being played during some college and pro football games this year?)

6- Shovels & Rope, "O Be Joyful"- To truly appreciate Shovels & Rope, you should see them live, immediately.  Until then, this album serves as a great snapshot of their energy, harmony, and chemistry.  There have been a ton of "husband/wife" duos lately, it seems, but Shovels & Rope are doing everything right.  Some songs may initially seem sappy, but they play them with such sincerity and gusto that any sap is quickly overshadowed by their keen emotion.  There is no better song from 2012 than "Bimingham," which alone makes the album worth purchasing.

7- Arliss Nancy, "Simple Machines"- "I don't believe that we've been properly introduced.." So begins the newest album from Arliss Nancy.  I'd say that is a fair statement from the Denver rock band.  Their first album ("Dance to Forget") was a good album but this album shines much brighter due to upped production values, added instruments here and there, and a damn near perfect set of songs.  I'd say if you were just now hearing of Arliss Nancy this album would no doubt be the place to start and if you've been hesitating on listening, stop.  It's a great, catchy rock and roll album.

8- Natural Child, "For the Love of the Game"/"Hard in Heaven"- After seeing Natural Child open up for The Hold Steady this year, I went crazy for these guys.  The 3-man band from Nashville, TN were busy in 2012 releasing both "For the Love of the Game" and "Hard in Heaven."  I know it's probably cheating to include both albums here at #8, but when I was thinking about this list I couldn't pick a clear favorite.  Sounding like a combination of the Stones and the Ramones, Natural Child rock and roll through sleazy guitar licks and songs about women, partying, and drugs.  Just try to listen to these guys without moving.  I think it's impossible.

9- Alabama Shakes, "Boys and Girls"- I fell for this album and band hook, line, and sinker.  Talk about a powerful voice!  I think this is a fun, well-played, and well-written record.  While Alabama Shakes aren't really breaking new ground lyrically, they are laying down really great music and the songs are perfect vehicles for Brittany Howard to showcase her incredible vocals.  Also, it's really amazing how fast Alabama Shakes rose to stardom.  I'm sure it happens all the time, but it had never happened to a band I was on board with when they were just Alabama's best kept secret. 

10- Justin Townes Earle, "Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now"- Lots of folks aren't crazy about JTE's new album due to its subdued nature.  I, on the other hand, think it is the perfect Sunday morning album.  Once again, an artist added a horns section to an album and it worked perfectly.  The contemplative mood of the album works for Earle and the band he gathered to record with. This is a fine album that I believe will get much stronger with time.

Other albums just missing the top 10 include: The Bohanons- "Unaka Rising," The Gaslight Anthem- "Handwritten," Cory Branan- "Mutt," Shooter Jennings- "Family Man," and Patterson Hood- "Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance."

Jan 4, 2013

FTM Top 75 Albums of 2012: 1-20

A first-half-of-the-year release unfairly hurts some albums on these year-end lists. That wasn't the case for this year's #1 album, There is a Bomb in Gilead. From my May review:
"The forthright Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires emerges onto the scene already
a full-fledged force to be reckoned with on this fantastic debut.
Mixing garage rock, country soul and southern swagger into an effortlessly authentic blend, Lee and the boys give a spirited go at every style across 11 spotless tracks. From the driving exploration of faith on album opener "Ain't No Stranger," through the sin, searching and nostalgia of the middle to the hymn-inspired closing title track, there isn't a weak point on the album."

Standout tracks: Sundown in Nashville, Picture From Life's Other Side (with Hank III)

See review here.

See review here.
RIYL: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Lucero, Two Cow Garage

Does this band have a signature sound, or what? Turnpike Troubadours are (is?) distinctive, vibrant and unique (so unique in fact, that I used two synonyms for that word in the same description). Disregard my haphazard writing and just know that they've come into their own on Goodbye Normal Street
Songwriting doesn't get much better in this day and age.
Standout tracks: Good Lord Lorrie, Empty as a Drum, Gin, Smoke, Lies

From Kelcy's November review (note - we'll also post Kelcy's favorite albums of '12 later on, 
so I should probably do my own write-up here, but I'm lazy)
"In summary, if you're a fan of anything that Cody Canada, Seth James, Jeremy Plato, Steve Littleton or have done in the past you will love this album.  If you're a fan of good bluesy rock n roll you will love this album.  Shoot, if you're just a fan of good music with some substance, you need to pick up a copy.  So get Adventus & celebrate the true Arrival of The Departed on the scene."
Standout tracks: Prayer for the Lonely, Set It Free, Sweet Lord
A true comeback album, 3 Pears finds the country legend mixing rock, soul, country and his undying swagger into a welcome set of memorable songs that will never get played on Clearchannel radio.
Standout tracks: It's Never Alright, A Heart Like Mine, Rock It All Away

Standout tracks: Pocket Full of Misery, Rosalia

(Condescending Wonka says) Oh you thought West Coast rap was dead? 
Have you heard Kendrick Lamar?
Standout tracks: B*tch Don't Kill My Vibe, Backseat Freestyle

Real country is alive and well. The Trishas are proof. The vocals and harmonies are beyond reproach. The songwriting is the thing for me though. High, Wide and Handsome shows Nashville how to write a hooky, lyrically clever song without leaning on cliches and marketing. The Trishas are no one-note act - they give us a portrait of strength on the album, but they also give us vulnerability. In other words, reality.
Standout tracks: Over Forgiving You, Mother of Invention, The Fool

Standout tracks: More Than I Can Handle, Harold Wilson, Desperate People

I want to personally thank Killer Mike for relighting my fire for hip-hop. Obviously, I focus mostly on alt-country and rock, but I've been a rap fan since the late 80's. I just thought intelligent, fiery, well-crafted hip-hop was a thing of the past. (Obviously there's a whole rap underground that I'm discounting with that statement, but there are only so many hours in the day for listening to music.) R.A.P. Music is a bold statement, both lyrically and sonically. Producer EL-P (whose own album is further down this list) provides a brutal, old-school-leaning bed for the rhymes. Mike flows like he actually cares about what he's saying. He's clearly a real person - in one verse he's cursing the political system; in the next he's praising his family. There's little talk of bling and booty on this record....because real people don't have to dwell on generalities and boasts when they discuss life. Killer Mike is as real as it gets.
Standout tracks: Big Beast, Reagan, Butane

The indie-country Svengali delivers his most consistent album to date with Family Man
It's a cohesive, passionate look at (mostly) the everyman side of country music royalty. 
On these very pages, I once dismissed Shooter's music, voice and image but no longer... 
so long as he continues to deliver music this engaging and tuneful. 
Standout tracks: The Long Road Ahead, Daddy's Hands

The indie world buzzed and bowed for this band from ...duh, Alabama, as soon as their EP hit the scene in 2011. That hype turned a lot of people off or built up their expectations far too high, but for me, Boys & Girls was a delivery on the promise of that Extended Play. Throw some Muscle Shoals soul, New York garage rock and folk sensibility into a blender and the Shakes are what results. It's more than that, though. Their songwriting is strong, their musical chops are exciting and Britanny Howard's voice is a thing of beauty.
I can't wait to see where they go from here.
Standout tracks: Hold On, Heartbreaker, I Ain't the Same

Like Shooter Jennings, Matt King was an artist I once didn't "get." Given time with his music however, I've changed my tune. Matt is a country singer with a very distinct vision. He also has a signature sound. That's rare in this day and age. Apples and Orphans is full of wit and anger in equal amounts. While politics and the environment are common themes, Matt explores these themes with an old-timey aesthetic and warm approach that never seems preachy, even when it is. His music is at times experimental, steampunk (whatever that means), ragtime or pure country. It's always passionate.
Standout tracks: Back to Baltimore, Jasmine and Gypsies


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