Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires Recontextualize Southern Rock

Categories: Interview

Wes Frazer
Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires are scheduled to perform Monday, June 23 at Last Exit Live.

Dereconstructed, the sophomore album by Birmingham, Alabama's Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, opens with a greasy guitar riff and a gospel-inflicted howl from Bains: "Yessir, tell me why, tell me why." The drums and bass kick in and it's pure boogie, undeniably "Southern rock."

But it's crucial to note that the album's 10 songs, recorded live in a friend's basement studio by punk legend Tim Kerr and pressed to wax by indie stalwart Sub Pop, defy typical Southern rock tropes. Instead of relaxing in Dixie cliche or historical revisionism, Bains tears apart and examines the South's past, reflecting on the oppression that took root in the place, and the resistance movement that disrupted it.

"We were raised on ancient truths, and ugly old lies," Bains sings on the title track, twang thick in his voice.

Bains sings about a South where profits were "put in the pockets of businessmen on Sunday," while "prophets" were beaten "black-and-blue" in the street. He sings about a South divided, turning rallying cries like "We Dare Defend Our Rights" on their head.

"[Any time] a culture establishes a sort of singular identity or narrative, or takes on one, it can be really destructive and very misleading," Bains says. Often, Southern rock bands focus only on the BBQ, beer, and Southern Comfort -- great subjects for rock 'n' roll songs, for sure -- but Bains spends the length of his album examining privilege, history, and class.

"That process of reconciliation has a deliberate energy that has to go into that. It's more pleasant and comfortable at times I think to just put it out of mind, but the act of reconciliation is rewarding," Bains says.

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