Every genre could use a makeover now and then. In the hands of Kings of Leon and My Morning Jacket, Southern rock gets a fresh spin – and in some unlikely ways.
On their debut, Nashville’s Kings shake up the style’s rural tendencies with the clamor of garage rock, mixing compact chords, frantic leads, and bashing drums with frontman Caleb Followill’s drawl. His lazy way with a vowel gives the band’s music a bluesy hue – think the Amboy Dukes meet the Allman Brothers.
The Kings’ connection to the South extends to more than just their hometown. The three Followill brothers (their cousin is the fourth member) grew up with a United Pentecostal evangelist father. But there’s nothing reverent about their lyrics, which roil with the randiness and violence of Delta classics.
Louisville, Ky.’s My Morning Jacket (their major-label debut arrives Sept. 9) offer an abstracted version of Southern rock that sounds like a product of the unconscious. Though they draw on familiar influences (Neil Young and the Byrds), their hazy production –and Jim James’ heavily echoed vocals – makes them seem as if they’re being filtered through a dream. ”Dance Floors” sounds like The Band blurred, while ”Master Plan” gives Crazy Horse’s dense chords the otherworldly quality of Sonic Youth. At times, the results can be distancing. But My Morning Jacket, like Kings of Leon, are proof that there are always new places to plant music’s roots. Youth & Young Manhood: B+ It Still Moves: B-