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With the Fourth of July holiday upon us, Ear Bliss looks to some pure forms of American music this week. Willie Nelson turned 80 years of age in 2013 and while most humans are either gone or barely hanging on by that age, the Red-Headed Stranger has shown little sign of slowing down. Band of Brothers is Nelsonâ€™s latest and features a number of original compositions. Country music-wise, itâ€™s a tried and true beauty. Southern Rock is pure American as defined by acts like trailblazers Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers and in more recent times the Drive-By Truckers. Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires hail from Alabama and take the subgenre to another level on its Sub Pop records debut. We salute American music this week with a look at the new album from each. Letâ€™s dig in.
â€śBand of Brothersâ€ť
Ah to be into your 80s and still doing what you love and doing it well. Listening to the new album from eightysomething Willie Nelson, you begin to wonder if he is ageless. With Nelson contemporaries like George Jones and Ray Price (Willie was a member of Priceâ€™s Cherokees band in the early 1960s) having recently passed, the old guard of country music are getting fewer these days. The newly released â€śBand of Brothersâ€ť is Nelsonâ€™s first album of mostly original material in some 18 years. With long-time producer Buddy Cannon at the helm and backing from a tried and true crew of Nelson â€śregularsâ€ť, the album is pure Willie at his country music finest. In addition to his own songs, he taps the works of some of his long-running comrades including fellow Texas outlaw Billy Joe Shaver along with country stalwarts Vince Gill and Bill Anderson. Cannon lets Nelson do his thing, vocally speaking, allowing that time-tested voice plenty of room to roam in song across the albumâ€™s 14 tracks. Commercially speaking, it is in stern contrast to most major label fare these days. Then again, Nelson has always been a trailblazer moving to the beat of his own muse with the fan support to back him. Simply put, â€śBand of Brothersâ€ť is a classy affair and as good a country record as you are likely to lay ears on this year. Visit www.legacyrecordings.com.
Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires
Sub Pop Records
The songs brandish titles like â€śThe Kudzu and The Concrete,â€ť â€śBurnpiles, Swimming Holes,â€ť â€śFlags,â€ť â€śMississippi Bottomland,â€ť and â€śDirt Track.â€ť Pure South, if you ask me. A Southern sonic rock and roll fury is one way to describe the cool and heavy sounds of Birmingham-based Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires as found on their Sub Pop Records debut titled â€śDeconstructed.â€ť To truly experience â€śDeconstructed,â€ť I recommend a three-step approach. Step one is to listen one time through to adjust to a guitar assault which pegs the meter in the red on nearly every one of the albumâ€™s 10 songs and is as Stonesy as it is Drive-By Truckers in its sonic onslaught of Southern guitar licks. Step two is another full listen and it there that you begin to differentiate Bainsâ€™ voice and lyrics from the exhilarating musical racket. The final step is one more full listen. It is here that it all comes together, the six string racket, Bainsâ€™ anthemic singing of the intricacies of Southern life, and the nuances of all those pieces coming together into one big throw down of a party. The album ignites with the full throttle crunch and howl of â€śCompany Manâ€ť and barely takes a breath until the closer â€śDirt Trackâ€ť which moves between slow builds and big twang rock & roll crescendo and where Bains name checks Marshall Tucker on the radio dial and Chevelleâ€™s kicking up dust at the local racing oval. Bains began his career as a member of Southern punkers The Dexateens spending three years with them before they split. Produced by Texas punk pioneer Tm Kerr, â€śDeconstructedâ€ť is Lee Bains III & the Glory Firesâ€™ second album following the very fine and more alt-like 2012 release There is a Bomb in Gilead (Alive Records). On it this new one the band makes a clear statement they are to be reckoned with. Visit www.subpop.com
Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires appears at Great Scott in Boston on Wednesday, July 16. Great Scott is located at 1222 Commonwealth Ave. (corner of Harvard and Commonwealth) in Allston, Mass.
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires bring genuine Alabama rock & rock to The Great Scott in Allston, Mass. on Wednesday, July 16. The Great Scott is located at 1222 Commonwealth Ave.
The Fourth of July weekend brings a wave of bands into the Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Road Matunuck) to celebrate the holiday weekend. The weekend kicks off on Thursday night with the return of Portland-based country rockers The Mallett Brothers. Ocean State stalwarts Steve Smith & The Nakeds rule the Mist on Friday with two shows at 5 and 9:30 p.m. to celebrate the nationâ€™s birthday. Saturday is a doubleheader with The Ocean Mistics holding down the afternoon with a free show starting at 3:30 p.m. and Bob Marley tribute band Hope Road on stage in the evening starting at 10 p.m. The festivities come to an end on Sunday with another Ocean State classic, The Senders, playing for your listening and dancing pleasure.
Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.