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If you’re looking for what is hip, what is hot right now in the confluence of American roots and rock music, you could make a strong case for the young, energetic roots rock bands emerging from the deep South as the epicenter of enthusiasm and influence. With the Alabama Shakes blowing up, the freedom to boldly mix blues, rock, country, and a large measure of soul has been endowed to bands with ample amounts of hunger, talent, and skill.
After years of nerdcore shoegazers being the most hip part of the scene, with their ukes and theremins and some pink haired girl in Sally Jessy Raphael glasses banging away at a Fisher-Price xylophone toy with a spatula, balls and back beat have re-emerged, including in the Birmingham, Alabama-based Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires whose debut album There’s a Bomb in Gilead was released on Alive-Naturalsound Records in May.
This is an explosively-energetic album with influences and styles pulling from a wide range of American music. Lee Bains is well-versed in Southern modes from both sides of the tracks, and shows tremendous versatility in being able to conjure up the smoky mood of a blues singer, and the sweaty twang of a Southern rocker in the space of a breath, with The Glory Fires right on his heels with their authentic, spot-on sonic interpretations.
There’s A Bomb in Gilead has some great tracks, anchored by the rocking “Centreville” which boasts some sick and stirring lyrical lines. Then Lee Bains and the boys show off how quick they can switch gears with the slow, country-feeling “Reba”. “Righteous, Ragged Songs” and “Red, Red Dirt of Home” hearken back to the golden-era of Allman-style Southern rock, while “Opelika” takes it over to the poor, dark side of town on a front porch, with good distance captured in the recording.
Overall the album conveys that “sweaty” sound The Rolling Stones perfected back in their Exile-Sticky Finger needle & spoon days that so many bands yearn for but few realize. There’s a Bomb also has some some very deep soulful moments that I hear in a lot of these Southern roots rock bands; Motown stuff that they call upon with the same frequency and confidence as the country and blues vibes.
Not to carry out The Alabama Shakes comparisons too far, but a similar concern I had with them I hear with Lee Bains too. With the wild variety in styles between songs, there is no one universal or unique style that defines the band, and it necessitates the listener shifting listening gears between songs. This also happens to keep the album spicy and your ears alert, but I would like to see Lee Bains & The Glory Fires do more to define their own sound, not just master the sounds of others.
Still this album passes the listening test, meaning you find yourself coming back and listening to it over and over. If you come to this album as a die hard country fan, you will come to it from the outside looking in, but with the song “Reba” and a strong Southern rock influence, there will be enough familiarity with it to allow you to warm up to the rest of the material.
This is a good first album with some great songs and great energy, and I look forward to hearing what Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires offer up in the future.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
(10-20-12) After much thought and listening to this album, I have decided to do the unprecedented and boost the rating of this album to a full “Two Guns Up!”. Though my concern remains that Lee Bains needs to further develop what is own unique sound is going to be, the listenability and appeal of the songs is just too great to deny it the best rating I have to give.
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