Alt-country. Garage rock. Garage rock with alt-country vibes. Garage country. Dirt rock. Outlaw country. Roadhouse music. I suppose this particular genre I’m thinking of could go by multiple names or fit in with other already established genres, but I choose only one name for it and one name only.
Shit Kickin’ Rock.
What is Shit Kickin’ Rock? Well, it’s dirty, not polished, upbeat rock music with a country twinge. That twinge is not that new Nashville bullshit country, but old school, whiskey-drinking country with a bite to it. It sounds like it was recorded in a garage or abandoned barn with less than stellar recording equipment.
That my friends is Shit Kickin’ Rock and I love me some Shit Kickin’ Rock. I love it when I’m driving fast down the highway, I love it when I’m out in the yard doing manly yard work things, I love it when I’m building something and I love it when I’m slogged at work and need a pick me up. Long story short- I love it a lot. I don’t like it a lot, I effin’ love it a lot.
I would say my love affair with Shit Kickin’ Rock started sometime between 2002 and 2004 and it most likely started when I heard the band the Drunk Stuntmen. The Stuntmen, most likely still roaming the foothills of the Berkshires out in Western Massachusetts, released the album, Iron Hip, in 2002. It sounded like a grimy version of Lynyrd Skynrd to me and I dug it- much more than I liked actual Skynrd. I liked the energy and the raw quality of it. Also, their drummer was my cousin- so that helped. But regardless, the Stuntmen was something new for me and it definitely got my attention. I filed it in the back of my brain as something to keep tabs on as I graduated from the jam band-filled days of college to the reggae and rock ‘n roll days that followed.
Around this same time, My Morning Jacket started to make some noise, and shortly after Kings of Leon came around, although, for clarification purposes, I’m talking about the Kings of Leon with shaggy locks, creeper ‘staches and a breakneck, dirty rock sound. Both bands were instantly on my radar and I distinctly remember hearing MMJ for the first time. It was on a compilation of Bonnaroo performances from 2003 and there was a version of them playing “Dancefloors” with a horn section. I had long been a sucker for music that almost demands to be played loud and from what I could tell, My Morning Jacket was one of those bands. To this day “Dancefloors” remains one of my favorite songs, not just of theirs, but of all songs.
Yet even still, it took me a while to 100% warm up to My Morning Jacket. This wasn’t the case with Kings of Leon though.
The two first Kings’ albums, Youth and Young Manhood and Aha Shake Heartbreak, were a perfect one, two punch and thanks to their tight length, almost acted as one album. The music had such a brazen attitude to it and seemed to forsake polish and precision for grit, grime, and vigor. I would say that those two albums were the birth of my relationship with Shit Kickin’ Rock and became the template for a band playing that fantastical style of music. Listen to those two albums, listen to them loudly, listen to them preferably outside and tell me you don’t want to do some kickin’ o’ shit. You can’t. It’s impossible. One of the best things about music is that it creates and speaks to your instincts. It makes you feel without trying. That’s why I love Shit Kickin’ Rock so much- because it feels so natural and in doing so, syncs up so effortlessly with how I’m feeling or even better, how I want to feel.
You get older and the idea of being carefree slips and slides further and further away. Shit Kickin’ Rock is carefree to me and I love that about it.
Kings of Leon back then were a markedly different band than the Kings of Leon today and it’s not just the hairstyles. In subsequent albums their sound expanded and evolved, prompting cries and accusations of selling out. I discarded that idea because, in my opinion, they were a band finding themselves and doing so in the public spotlight. They didn’t have two or three lesser-known albums where they worked on their sound. They did that with significantly more attention than other bands and as a result, the view of Kings of Leon was one that was constantly evolving. Kings of Leon did not sell out and did not abandon their Shit Kickin’ Rock roots. They simply grew out of them. Nothing wrong with that.
If you look at a lot of good Shit Kickin’ Rock bands, they don’t really stay Shit Kickin’ forever. Even My Morning Jacket has drifted away from Shit Kickin’ Rock. Legends like Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Allman Brothers Band had moments of Shit Kickin’, but not careers. I think it just comes with the territory. I don’t think it’s the kind of music that invites long-term residents. It’s more friendly to those in transit. Just watch a new band doing the Shit Kickin’ Rock thing like J Roddy Walston and the Business; they will most likely spread their wings and expand their sound.
The fact that Shit Kickin’ Rock is a moment in time for a lot of bands almost makes it more appealing. You’re catching a band during a specific moment in their career and that’s exciting. A lot of times it’s the moment right before they’re leaping towards another moment. Unfortunately for Shit Kickin’ Rock, with success comes polish and polish is a mortal enemy of Shit Kickin’ Rock. Well, that and speed limits, empty coolers, and busted speakers.
As music fans, we’re lucky to be living during a time of such accessibility when it comes to different styles of music. Long gone are the days of just listening to Rock or Country or Rap or Reggae and so on. Genres have become married and combined, sub-genres have formed. I can like rock, but depending on my mood or situation, I can drill down and get down with some roots-rock or alt-rock or indie rock or 70’s desert rock or beach rock, etc. It’s because of this I can latch onto something like Shit Kickin’ Rock, something I may not always want to listen to, but can most definitely crank the shit out of when I want to. Just like I can with groove rock, garage neo-soul, or boom bap hip hop.
Genres are yesterday’s news. We are a generation of musical sub-genres and it’s an effin’ wonderful thing.
And Shit Kickin’ Rock, kid, well, it is most definitely an effin’ wonderful thing.
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