Just a few days ago I read a post on this blog which discussed the influence of Southern Rock on American culture in the 1970s and early 80s. Having grown up in that era, I remember it well.
Skynyrd, Hank Jr and numerous others proudly proclaimed that they were unapologetically Southern. Tom Petty’s song “Rebels” from his Southern Accents Album is still one of my all-time favorite songs, and it contains perhaps the most haunting lyrics of any Southern influenced song of that genre- “Even before my father’s father they called us all rebels, as they burned our corn fields and left our cities leveled. I can still feel the eyes of those blue-bellied devils, as I’m walking around tonight in the concrete and metal.”
I can recall the feeling of pride in my own Southern roots that it gave me to know that these guys, whom I looked up to as musicians, were “like me.”
On a trip with my Grandmother to Panama City, Fl one year my sole mission was to obtain a “rebel” flag from one of the gift shops there. My Mom got me one, and it hung proudly on my bedroom wall for several years afterwards.
But that phenomenon began to shift in the 80s, and by the 1990s, it was all but gone. As a result, music was more watered down, less edgy, more commercial, and in my humble opinion, lacking in appeal. It is not just the symbolism of Southern influence that is missing, but the raw honesty and attitude that made the music what it was.
Even those who were instrumental in bringing this brand of music to the forefront, and who inspired so much pride in being Southern with their lyrics, have abandoned these roots- symbolically, and often musically as well.
So it was with great elation that I was alerted by a friend to a new, young group named The Kenneth Brian Band. The video displays prominently a pride in the singer’s Southern roots. The closing line of the song, like Petty’s song “Rebels”, gives me a chill. With the lead singer sitting on a headstone, the camera pans by a faded Battle Flag and a rusted Southern Cross of Honor that marks the unattended grave of a Confederate Soldier. Simultaneously the singer tells the story- “Now there’s bones lying in that clay, beneath the peat moss and the wind. And you don’t know why they’ve fallen, but you’re calling them your kin.”
In the lyrics as well as the accompanying music and delivery, there’s an honesty in this song that music has been lacking for far too long.
Could we be on the verge of another resurgence of Southern influence on the direction of music? I hope so.