Reviewed by Jonathan DeWoskin
Lee Bains has a unique, unchained and unmistakable rock and roll sound. They may be billed as country, but this album is replete with a social commentary that’s almost punk. Youth Detention doesn’t sound like any other album I’ve heard, but after a quick scan around the web I found references to Lee Bains being compared to the Drive-By Truckers. I’ll let you decide if that’s fair. This Yankee had to Google “Drive-By Truckers top ten hits” to find a few DBT songs and I don’t think it’s an apt comparison. Yeah, you read that right. Until today, I wouldn’t know a DBT song if you played one. Problem? Get off my lawn.
You should also note that I’m not Harry’s go-to guy for country music reviews. He gave me this assignment because he thought I’d like the music. Once again, he’s right. The Glory Fires published their lyrics, so now you can have a review from me that doesn’t just talk about how they sound, which is good because there’s a depth to their lyrics that goes way beyond – and sometimes in spite of – the catchy melodies they employ.
There’s some blues themes about country life, sometimes without the notes, but complete with imagery. There are multiple references to southern touchstones that I would never understand without a quick search. Mt. Meigs is a juvenile detention center in Alabama. Crooked Letters is a children’s song. It’s taught as a mnemonic device to spell Mississippi. The sampling of the children singing is an ear worm I’ve had a hard time shaking off.
There’s audio clips from protests, references to racial justice, white privilege, southern pride, patriotism and the church. This is powerful music with an important message, which is not something you find every day. It’s something to be heard, digested, contemplated and heard again. It’s high art to guise yourself as something as approachable as country music and present themes that make you consider something much larger. This is an album to listen with consideration and care.