in Kulturkampf

Southern Rock (Epic)

First of all, no fucking Free Bird. If you request it from the Drive By Truckers they will light a paper airplane on fire and throw it at you. *True!* Southern rock is rebellion, and first and foremost it is a rebellion against popular music. Much more after the jump:

It is about the times:

It is dirty:

It is as misunderstood as gangster hip-hop. It is as storied as anything from Seattle and it is achingly real.

Plus, you have to love a band that wanted to get on late night shows from the very beginning and did, before ever showing up on . I first heard Southern Rock Opera while sitting at Byron Wilks’ house and remember reading a Rolling Stone article naming it indie album of the year. Michael Cooley compares that honor to being the hobo with the biggest shopping cart; but their fans (and we are legion) were excited when they signed a contract.

The band grew and changed; along the way, the Truckers developed a sound that was the perfect marriage of country and rock. Don’t flinch: the DBTs will cure your paranoia. As both rock and country were inspired by blues, an axiom of country and rock is that you must speed a blues lick up to have rock and slow it down to have country. Got it?

Are there other southern rock bands out there? Certainly, but I really don’t think we can add Kings of Leon. Being from the south is not enough to make your music “southern.” The Pine Hill Haints are more southern rock than Kings:

“Spirit of 1812” is a signal that the roots of southern rock go deeper than we realize. Another band I’d add to the pantheon is Creech Holler. Here’s a song roughly one and a half centuries old:

Southern rock is reinvention. It is washtub bass and banjo. Indeed, the DBTs have a female vocalist and bass player as well as a steel pedal guitar. Southern rock has a stripped-down form — “folk is punk,” as Jamie Barrier of the Haints likes to say — or takes more grand manifestations (the DBTs “three axe attack”).

The transition is audible if you listen to Barrier’s oeuvre: the stripped-down sound of his earlier work with more instruments: a saw, an accordion, a banjo, even letting Matt Bakula take the spotlight while he plays a fiddle.

Americana, rockabilly, blues, country, bluegrass — they are a continuum of sound. Above all, lyrics tell stories and do not shy from controversy. The Haints sing about ghost trains; Creech Holler covers ancient murder ballads.  By these qualities you will know the southern rock.

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