Southern songwriters have a way of writing songs to explain life in the American south. Drive-By Truckers made an album of it with Southern Rock Opera. In a similar fashion, Dirt Reynolds has recorded Scalawag as a way of “exploring his own southern identity in modern culture.”
Exploring identity is an interesting proposition for Dirt Reynolds, whose given name is Chris Watts. The creation of this alter ego was something of a necessity after the name someone named Chris Watts murdered his family in Colorado.
The exploration of southern life isn’t the only similarity to Drive-By Truckers. The guitars especially have the gritty, distorted sounds that have been a staple of Drive-By Truckers. You can even hear some social commentary in songs like “The Day David Duke Came to Destrehan.” This is in the long tradition of songs about someone famous coming to town and all the people of the town being excited. Only in this case, not everyone is excited for the guest.
You don’t have to be from a southern state to appreciate “American Kind.” This song kind of encapsulates the America that you don’t see on the news. You get a glimpse of “Trust fund young’uns taking over the town” in some attempt at revitalization. One character in the song works minimum wage to save up for a move to L.A. The overall effect is something like if The Bottle Rockets recorded a Bad Religion song.
In fact, while these songs may be about and inspired by the south, Reynolds covers themes that are universal to life in the U.S. There are mentions of God and Jesus as well as Oxycontin and people sleeping on the ground. Perhaps the best example of how this encapsulates the American experience is in “Homecoming Show” when he sings, “Laugh it away, and say nothing’s changed.”
This album is an earnest glimpse of life for those who are marginalized because they don’t fit the portrait of the American dream. The melodies are fittingly gritty for an alt-country album while Reynolds shows the ability to write incisive lyrics that paint a picture and evoke a variety of feelings in the listener. Scalawag will be available everywhere on June 26. Order your copy here.
Chris Watts – Guitar, vocals
Joseph Lekkas – bass
Erin Nelson – drums
Mary Hull – keyboards
CJ Colandrea – pedal steel
Produced and mixed by Chris Watts and Joseph Lekkas
Band members not appearing on the album
Jason Paradise – guitar
Seek Kohl – bass
Ryan Dishen – drums