featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
June 30, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
Debuts crowd our playlist this Episode, from unhinged moments with the Yawpers and Deer Tick to more measured contributions from Robyn Ludwick and David Ramirez. Quiet and folky bits rub parts with more agitated sorts, and it's all good. It's All Good. And much of it this Episode happens to be both Good and Loud. Rod Melancon digs a backyard hole to hell on one of two spoken word pieces. The aptly named Ruby Force pays noisy tribute to Saint Vic Chesnutt. And god bless the Bohannons for a lovingly disheveled album.
But nobody has generated more of a buzz 'n racket this year than Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires. Youth Detention is punk. And, like the best punk, the double-CD gives us reason to rage while also issuing a rallying cry and reminding listeners of what matters in the midst of a social shitstorm. Youth Detention is a truly remarkable document, like a shoebox jammed full with a jumble of memories, impressions, frustrations and identities.
Lee Bains III formed his Glory Fires upon leaving the Dexateens, whose howling Southern punk lives on in his current music. But Bains has traveled far since those days, and has breathed in the dust of blues, folk, gospel and country which clogs the grooves of Youth Detention. The blazing anger of "Good Old Boy" contrasts with the more melodic reflections of "I Heard God!" or the acoustic "Picture of a Man". "Breaking it Down!" invokes a stained glass congregation, while "Nail My Feet Down To the Southside of Town" is an anthemic Southern rocker. While such a diversity of noise could threaten to force the collection off the rails, the cumulative effect is similar to being in the midst of that murmuring, restless congregation.
There is interstitial noise, studio patter and field recording throughout the record, providing both distraction and continuity. And as a reviewer who prefers to pepper his pieces with lyrics, Bains doesn't make it easy to grasp his words as they fly by. That said, between the buzz and the bang, what I can grasp is often pure poetry.
There we sat / In fluorescent halos / The tiny flowering redemptions / Of sharecroppers and miners and slaves / Offering up to our class / Beneath the TV the flag and the cross / Our ridge-and-valley twangs and drawls / Birthmarks to be scrubbed awayHe approaches the mic with a lifetime of stuff to say, unleashing a firehose of words that rarely lend themselves to singalong moments. But parsing this torrent can produce moments of tremendous feeling and heartfelt emotion.
I still believe, children, in some kind of warm, forgiving light / That bears us away from our worn-out bodies and this wartorn life / And, I don't know, but if anybody in this world just fades to black / I'd think it's the man that lives off picking on them that're being held backListen to Youth Detention the way I did. Pocket the lyric sheet and simply lay awash in the energy and the static. "Sweet Disorder" and "Whitewash" will reveal the pure melody beneath all that noise. The children's playground chorus that abides throughout "Crooked Letter" provides an indelible rhythm and an innocence that grounds some of the record's anger. But after a couple listens, as the songs begin to become familiar, take a look at the lyrics (you can also find them here). This isn't the Dexateens. Heck, it's stuff that you'll have trouble finding anywhere else on a decade's worth of R&B playlists. Bains doesn't give us easy listening (and it certainly can't be real easy to sing). But it's smart, passionate and often painful.
Bains roots much of Youth Detention in a specific place and time. But these 17 songs drag the lessons of Alabama social justice into the light of our present civil war. As we trip and stumble and rage into the July 4th holiday, we tell the stories that matter and raise our voices in support of what we're in danger of losing, pushing and pushing against the god damned creeping darkness. Like Drive-by Truckers' iconic Southern Rock Opera, Lee Bains III has produced a classic double-CD of Southern sound that rocks hard, points fingers and satisfies profoundly. Happy Independence Day!
- Blitzen Trapper, "Man Who Would Speak True" Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop, 10)
- Micah Schnabel, "Cincinnatti, Ohio" Your New Norman Rockwell (Last Chance, 17)
- Rod Melancon, "Lights of Carencro" Southern Gothic (Blue Elan, 17) D
^ Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Nail My Feet Down to the Southside of Town" Youth Detention (Don Giovanni, 17)
- Bohannons, "Heart Go West" Luminary Angels (Cornelius Chapel, 17)
- Robyn Ludwick, "Texas Jesus" This Tall to Ride (Ludwick, 17) D
- Jason Isbell, "Something to Love" Nashville Sound (Southeastern, 17)
- Chris Canterbury, "Refinery Town" Refinery Town (Backporch, 17) D
- Sam Baker, "Feast of Saint Valentine" Land of Doubt (Baker, 17)
- Zephaniah Ohora, "I Do Believe I've Had Enough" This Highway (Ohora, 17)
- Amanda Anne Platt & Honeycutters, "Eden" Amanda Anne Platt & Honeycutters (Organic, 17)
- Jeff Tweedy, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" Together at Last (dBPM, 17)
- Steph Cameron, "That's What Love Is" Daybreak Over Jackson Street (Pheromone, 17)
- Lilly Hiatt, "Trinity Lane" Trinity Lane (New West, 17) D
- Will Hoge, "Baby's Eyes" Anchors (Edlo, 17)
- Deer Tick, "It's a Whale" Deer Tick Vol. 2 (Partisan, 17) D
- Ruby Force, "Ode to Vic Chesnutt" Evolutionary War (Force, 17) D
- Tyler Childers, "Whitehouse Road" Purgatory (Hickman Holler, 17)
- Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Tell the Devil I'm Gettin' There ..." Tell the Devil I'm Gettin' There As Fast As I Can (Bordello, 17) D
- Colter Wall, "Kate McCannon" Colter Wall (Young Mary's, 17)
- Dan Auerbach, "Livin' in Sin" Waiting on a Song (Nonesuch, 17)
- Angaleena Presley, "Dreams Don't Come True" Wrangled (Mining Light, 17)
- James Elkington, "Sister of Mine" Wintres Woma (Paradise of Bachelors, 17) D
- Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton, "You Are Not Needed Now" Wildflower Blues (Cinquefoil, 17) D
- David Ramirez, "Watching From a Distance" We're Not Going Anywhere (Sweetworld, 17) D
- Nick Lowe, "Live Fast Love Hard Die Young" Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit (Yep Roc, 17) D
- Yawpers, "Mon Dieu" Boy in a Well (Bloodshot, 17) D
- Nathaniel Rateliff, "Laughing" In Memory of Loss (Rounder, 10)
- Matthew Logan Vasquez, "Red Fish" Does What He Wants (Dine Alone, 17) D
- Delta Spirit, "California" Delta Spirit (Rounder, 12)