by Brian Robbins
The last time I wrote about Lee Bains III was almost three years ago to the day. The occasion was a review of Singlewide by the Dexateens, a great-but-gone band that Bains played guitar in. I concluded that review with the following: “The Dexateens have made the album of their career. If you missed buying Wilco’s AM when it first came out – or better yet, the Replacements’ Let It Be – you have found redemption in Singlewide.”
Well, I still think Singlewide is a great album, even though the Dexateens are no more. Here’s the deal, however: take that raggedy-assed blue jean grit of AM and stir it into a bucket of the punk-but-smart vibe of the ‘Mats’ Let It Be, slather on some southern soul, and hit it with a few dashes of just plain damn cool – that’ll put you on the road to understanding what Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires’ There Is A Bomb In Gilead sounds like.
The tunes are penned by Bains and The Glory Fires play them like this might just be the last record on Earth. Not in terms of franticness, thrash, or desperation – rather, they just plain make ‘em count. There are no wasted moves here. Drummer Blake Williamson and bassist Justin Colburn know when to let the groove burble along like a pair of idling glasspacks (it gets no cooler than Colburn’s bassline on “Righteous, Ragged Songs” – unless it’s Williamson’s thumb-in-the-beltloops beat on “Choctaw Summer”). And they know just exactly when to slam the pedal to the floormat: Colburn drives “Centreville” hard and deep into the corners, culminating in a fierce, thrashing/smashing “Train Kept A’Rollin’”-style drum explosion by Williamson.
While Bains plays some keys on There Is A Bomb In Gilead, his main instrument is guitar. He and lead picker Matt Wurtele make a great team; their dry-toned work on “The Red, Red Dirt Of Home” sounds like the Ron Wood/Keith Richards weaves on Wood’s I’ve Got My Own Album To Do, while the twang of “Reba” recalls the Stones’ “Dead Flowers”. Listen to “Opelika”: Wurtele’s shimmering leads flash and sparkle all around Bains’ vocal, but he never gets in the way or overplays – it truly is another voice. And speaking of voices, I’ve yet to hear Bains interpret somebody else’s songs. As far as his own go, however, he’s the man to deliver them. He knows where the heart of each and every one of them is.
There are a few songs that had – had – to have been recorded at midnight by their sound and vibe (the weary goodbye of “Everything You Took”; the snapping, biting “Ain’t No Stranger”). And if the stripped-to-the-bone title track wasn’t laid down on a Sunday morning, well, I don’t want to know about it. People spend careers (and a lot of production bucks) trying to sound this soulful.
This is a debut album? Holy ol’ Christ …
Hang on, world: here come Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires.