Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, who hail from the Iron City of Birmingham, AL, aren’t just changing the sound of modern Southern Rock- they are defining it. Their sound of dueling overdriven guitars infused with thought-provoking lyrics fueled by themes of cultural equality, geographically-influenced perspectives, as well as an overwhelming determination to shift rotting social paradigms isn’t just something intriguing for a band that so strongly self-identifies as southerners. It’s downright revolutionary. Through his music, Bains is managing to reveal truths that have remained obscured under the veil of shame and silence over the years in a way that brings new ideas to listeners in a creative fashion, who might not have heard them otherwise (I most certainly include myself in this group). The Glory Fires are exactly what music needs right now, and they could not be more relevant.
I haven’t yet seen this group live, so I can’t quite give an accurate representation of what they sound like in person (you’ll have to check out Adam Morrow’s “Concerts of 2017” article for that part), but I’ve listened to their records enough to claim that if you haven’t yet heard them, you need to put them on whatever listening platform you may have. You need to be careful though; I’m pretty sure that I’ve damaged the speakers in my car due to the subjects of this piece. The soaring and gritty guitar work of Lee Bains and Eric Wallace paired with the stellar rhythm section of Blake and Adam Williamson will make you want to listen to this band LOUD. However, it would be extremely ignorant of me to only focus on the sound of this band, and not the ideas and personal revelations that they have caused.
While I was watching The Glory Fires’ set at SWSX 2018 in Austin, TX, I heard incredibly profound inter-song commentary that still resounds within my conscience. Before the band kicked off their blistering song “Underneath the Sheets of White Noise”, Bains made a statement about how the song “isn’t about stealing someone else’s voice; it’s about hearing their voice and amplifying it”, which immediately caused me to rethink how one should go about representation. Throughout recent generations, we’ve always had music that has served as a voice for those whose cries are not always heard on our radios and whose words aren’t written in our newspapers. We had Bob Dylan in the sixties, we had Neil Young in the seventies, we had Bruce Springsteen in the eighties, but now in 2018, we have The Glory Fires, and countless others who are endeavoring in a never-ending battle to reveal the perspectives that we need to hear the most. This theme of consideration that dominates their work ascends to levels of impact that go far beyond what music often does; it’s not materialistic, it’s not self-centered, it’s not divisive, and it’s not about some illusive form of power. I’ll go ahead and make the remark that we don’t really need to listen that kind of garbage right now. We need the kind of understanding that The Glory Fires are sending out at full volume through speakers not just in the south, but across the world.
When you hear this band, you’ll probably notice that Bains’ vocals often lie submerged beneath the controlled chaos and feedback of the band, only to resurface in time for a resounding chorus – this has an incredibly artistic purpose behind it. As the listener, this drew my interest in towards the message of the song, and more importantly, how it relates to my worldview and perception of the events that happen around me on a daily basis. Being from an area in the south that sometimes “lags behind” in terms of acceptance, I haven’t always had the beliefs that I do now, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve been purposely intolerant or close-minded in the past. They just hadn’t yet developed into what they are now. Most assuredly, I can say The Glory Fires’ music has had a critical role in shaping my belief system; one might say that I’m referring to my politics, but that’s really not it at all. It’s about how I want to treat others. Songs such as “Nail My Feet Down to the Southside of Town” and “Whitewash” from their newest record have encouraged me on a deeply personal level to try to find what it means to love my neighbor and to be a more responsible citizen in the incredibly diverse world that we inhabit. In the latter song mentioned, Bains thoughtfully sings “I’ve got a people, and a place, and a history bearing down on me”, which to me, fully embodies my ever-changing identity as a southerner, and how it’s my duty to remain conscious of my region’s past history, as well as the impact of my actions and words in the present.