When I moved back to NC in 2008, a mechanic at the garage where I took my car noticed I was into music, and recommended Rebel Son. The band played locally a few times, but due to work I unfortunately missed them, including the famous show where they opened for David Allan Coe. About a year ago I suddenly remembered them and looked up their videos on Youtube. I was instantly hooked. According to Rebel Son’s website, their CD’s are available locally at Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, NC. After work one day I stopped in and bought one. I had a nice chat with guy behind the counter, who was very knowledgeable about the band. We were overjoyed to be able to make the show at the Dog House in Fayetteville, NC on 9/7/2013.
We drove down to Fayetteville that afternoon, stopped to eat, and finally wandered into the Dog House about 6PM. After our experiences at some venues in the Triangle area, we were sort of wary, but this was totally needless. The Dog House was laid-back and everyone was just hanging out. Staff was friendly, and we struck up a conversation with a couple of guys who turned out to be manning Rebel Son’s merch table. They were super nice, and invited us to come an see them at their table when we finished our drinks.
There was a pretty diverse crowd, from hard-core bikers to Country/Metalheads, and no one paid anyone else any mind. Everyone was respectful of others. This was very refreshing after attending area music events where people looked at us with hostility and disdain for not “fitting in”. This was definitely NOT the case at The Dog House, and we had the most fun we have ever had at a concert! No one cared what you wore or how you sounded. They were there to RAWK out to Rebel Son, and party with friends. This is how all shows should be.
Lee Johnson and the band blew us away! The music was high-energy, shit-kickin’, and boot-stompin’ for nearly three hours. This was a real raise-hell concert that everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Johnston is vastly underrated as a guitarist. He is phenomenal, switching from covers to his original material with ease. The band is fabulous. It is hard to believe that you can get this sort of sound with only three guys. Rebel Son is one of the few bands I have heard that actually sound better in concert than on their studio releases. There was no “live-show-sloppiness” here! Everything was tight and spot-on. There was fine coordination and interplay between all the band members, and some of the songs were bass-driven!
Lee performed his classics, such as “Bury Me in Southern Ground” (our personal favorite); Chain Gang; Drunk Out; It’ll Probably Kill Us All; Mr. Confederate Man; Whiskey in the Jar; Hog Stompin’ Man’ ; Quit Your Bitchin’; Please Stand Up; What You Think ; 1-2-3; Southern Wind; Spanish Lady, and more. There were also some great covers of Waylon’s Lonesome, Ornery and Mean, Belle of the Ball; Cash’s Rusty Cage, and others. During the second half of the show, the band pulled all the stops, and it was no-holds-barred all the way to the end. Lee did some fabulous improvs, including a masterful one based on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” that turned into “Sittin’ Up Drinking With Robert E. Lee”, a song I dearly love.
No, Rebel Son didn’t always sound like “classic Country”. There were a lot of things thrown in. But it was pure REBEL SON. When Lee played Waylon’s “Lonesome, On’ry, and Mean”, it suddenly sounded more “authentic” than anyone else’s cover that I’ve heard. Waylon and his music had an edge. An edge that is sadly lacking in many of the classic country bands. Rebel Son weren’t trying to sound like a dead Country star, be “authentic”, or imitate anyone. They weren’t trying to be inoffensive and tame. NEITHER WAS WAYLON. Waylon didn’t give a bloody damn about whether he “offended” anyone or not. Rebel Son plays it like they feel it: sharp and mean as a Confederate bayonet at Antietam, and with heart. This ain’t no coffeehouse honky-tonk.
At The Dog House, hearing Lee Johnson and looking at the bikers, the girls drinking, and the head-bangers pushing up to the stage as they shouted out the lyrics to every song, I thought “Damn. This is what it must have been like back in 1973 listening to Waylon in some beat up Texas roadhouse.” Now THAT’S Country. At least to this old Southern boy.
A lot of people have songs about Country and Southern pride, including Merle Haggard; Rhett Atkins; Hank Jr; and, of course, David Allan Coe. But Rebel Son does something not many bands do in Country-related music. They express a direct sense of resentment and anger at the class prejudice aimed at “down home” country folks and Southerners in general by affluent Cultural Elitist types. My girlfriend and I have experienced this many times in the NC Triangle area. This Elitist crowd displays an open contempt for all things Southern. When they hear a Southern accent, their disdain is palpable. They disparage and mock Southern culture as being “redneck” or “hick”. A lot of them are the equivalent of modern day Carpetbaggers. They move down here to make money, then arrogantly insult everyone not like them. Apparently they can buy everything but manners. When I heard Rebel Son, it was like a rallying cry for those of us who are PROUD of our Southern culture and heritage. But their music is not only for Southerners. Anyone who has ever been looked down upon for who they are or where they come from from can relate to Rebel Son’s music. And yet, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Their music contains a large helping of humor, and deftly manages to be tongue-in-cheek and deadly earnest at the same time.
Rebel Son also understands that Country-inspired music is all about basic human emotions. Someone once complained that Country music “is all about screwing, getting drunk, and crying”. Well, when you strip life of the veneer, this is largely what it is. Sex, love, hate, revenge, and pain are the realities that most people face everyday. This is where Country music came from. This is what ALL music is about in one form or another. Sure, a lot of it is couched in high-blown, lofty metaphors, but it comes down to the same thing. If you’re feeling philosophical, read some Milton or Shakespeare. But if you’re “All Horned Up” or “On The Warpath”, go to a Rebel Son show. They don’t pussyfoot around!
To sum it all up, Rebel Son is an original. They are Southern Outlaw Speed Metal Country with balls! It doesn’t get any better than this.
“I may not have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth,
But I’m proud to be a no bullshit boy from down south.
I’m 100% workin man that’s what I’ll always be,
So you upper class can kiss my ass cause you ain’t worth a shit to me”. - What You Think
“You don’t like the South, you don’t have to stay” – On the Warpath.