I recently discovered Rebel Son. Songs such as Drunk As a Skunk and Sittin’ Up Drinkin’ With Robert E. Lee have captured a small and until now vacant part of my heart. How I hadn’t heard of them until now, and how I stumbled upon them, not by an actual recommendation, but accidentally is a total shame. So to begin the story of my new fixation with Rebel Son in particular, I think it’s important to give you, dear reader, a quick rundown of my history with country music in general.
Living down in the American South for as long as I have now – (I reckon its goin’ on dern near fifteen years by the length of the ol’ kudzu vine out back) – it was only a matter of time before I became familiar enough with contemporary country music that I actually began to like a few songs.
The Charlotte, NC region has probably 5 or so country stations, 3 top forty stations, 2 modern rock stations, 2 classic rock stations, and 2 adult contemporary radio stations. So, yeah, country music is kinda hard to avoid if you’re flipping around the regular radio dial. That’s not to mention that there are quite a few bars and other public venues that have a large country-music loving customer base, and thus play the music. And need I mention parking lots, sitting in traffic, public parks, lakeside and various other places where the blasting of music is a regular occurrence?
Over the last two or so years I began to actually listen to country music instead of ignoring, or even worse, degrading it, and a few things about it began intrigue me.
#1. Its insistence on telling a story.
A lot of country songs actually are a narrative, a short story that rhymes, often with a moral at the end. The songs often try to tug at your heart strings, and the story often concludes with an O’Henry sort of ironic, twist ending. A good example of this is God is Great, Beer is Good by Billy Currington. (This particular attribute of country music makes it eminently easy to make fun of – or rather, have fun with as Rebel Son will make clear shortly.)
#2. A lot of country music is about the country music lifestyle, and a reinforcement and a defense of the country music lifestyle.
This is by no means isolated to country music. A ton of hip hop and rap songs are mainly about being into hip hop and rap. And, for those about to rock, we salute you – please. But rock and hip hop lifestyles are pumped up and glorified not just in the music, but also all over our television, movies, and other pop culture day after day, whereas the country music lifestyle tends to be isolated from mainstream culture to a certain extent. Even Taylor Swift, before she was interrupted by Kanye West during the recent MTV awards alluded to the fact that she never thought she’d win because she’s a country artist. Although it is certainly more mainstream than it was a decade ago, it is still a marginalized genre in a lot of ways. And, in my opinion, a lot of this marginalization occurs because of country music’s insistence on glorifying the country music lifestyle. As such, a person either likes country music or hates it – there’s not much in between. A good recent example of a song that glorifies the country lifestylye is One In Every Crowd by Montgomery Gentry.
#3. Lastly, like any music, if you wade through enough of it you’re going to find some gems here and there.
Okay, well I guess that wasn’t a good example. But anyway, to continue…
Even those who profess to “hate, hate, hate” country music are going to find, given enough exposure, something to hum along to. I recall a few years ago when Mrs. Smirk – a professed country music hater – found herself unconsciously humming along to “Cry” by Faith Hill as it played over Target’s PA system. Do you know why she was humming? Because “Cry” is a good infectious song that actually succeeds in capturing the melancholy of being dumped. It’s a perfect match of melody and lyric. That’s not just a good country song, but a good pop song, and ultimately, stripping away all the labels – just a good song. (Not to mention that the video for it that I linked to above is a well-directed, special-effect laden piece of kick-ass, short-filmmaking.)
So, to get around to Rebel Son; The other day as I was working I was perusing country music videos, in particular Montgomery Gentry, who I don’t “like”, but rather find fascinating. They have catchy as hell songs, but almost all of their lyrics revolve around the aforementioned affirmation of the country-lifestyle – as in, you get the feeling that both Montgomery and Gentry will kick anybody’s ass who would dare to question their lifestyle.
Anyway, in the sidebar, youtube recommended for me Rebel Son- and on a whim, I clicked. And boy am I glad I did. At first I wasn’t sure if these guys were satirizing country music, or perhaps taking country music to its next logical incarnation – Hard Core Country maybe?. Perhaps a little of both.
Though Rap and Country seem about as far away from each other as musical forms could get, what they do have in common is their rabid fan base, their endorsement and encouragement of their respective lifestyles, and lastly their genre within a genre morphology.
So, here, without further adieu I present the ingenious, hilarious, catchy, and downright good music of Rebel Son. Consider them a sort of the Afroman of country music – except they’ll probably never get any country radio airplay considering their lyrical content. Needless to say, the three songs below are definitely NSF.
First off, a song that tells a story:
“What Part Don’t You Understand”
Secondly, we’ll have our affirmation of the Country lifestyle song:
“Redneck Piece of White Trash”
And lastly, a song that’s just plain good – and pretty friggin’ funny.
“Quit Yer Bitchin'”
Lest I present Rebel Son as merely a band making funny novelty songs, they do get quite serious. For instance “Bury Me In Southern Ground” is, I dare say, a haunting, deathbed vigil and a longing for a South that is no longer with us.
“You Can’t Turn a Whore Into a Lady” sounds like it would be funny, but is actually not funny at all and is really quite a serious song with a lot of truth to it – not just about whore’s turning into lady’s, but about human nature. “You can’t turn a whore into a lady, unless she wants to do it herself/You can try and try but you can’t turn someone into somebody else.” Is this not the same advice mothers have been giving daughters for millennia?
Check ’em out! They play constantly all over the south, and even have a date in November at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. Click the logo below to head to their myspace page which has all their upcoming dates!