In Walker County, many know Justin Colburn as simply the “Jim ‘N Nicks guy.” In the restaurant world, flavor is your identity and this guy prefers it saucy, intense and robust. But few would believe that he is also member of a four man rock band that has seen a wild growth in popularity in 2012.
Justin Colburn plays bass guitar for the band Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires, a gritty, soulful Southern rock band based out of Birmingham. The band’s first album “There’s a Bomb in Gilead” was released in May and has received critical acclaim. The album title comes from an old Southern gospel song titled “There’s a Balm in Gilead,” but the country accents of his fellow parishioners caused a young Lee Bains to imagine a bomb awaiting to explode in this ancient biblical town. The album title fits well with the music, as some songs seem to offer a balm to the soul while others are on the verge of exploding with a Southern punk rock flavor.
Since the album’s release, the group has been touring hard, performing in twenty-six states over the past eighteen months. The band travels from state to state in a trusty van with music equipment in tow. They keep the roads hot in the daytime and the stage hot at night with a high energy show, playing their own songs from the album. Much like his cooking, Justin prefers songs that are saucy, intense and robust and the band delivers music that is a perfect recipe.
On the road, the band is at home in the woods, thanks to their varied Alabama upbringings. “Many times we will spend the night in a nearby campground instead of a hotel. We enjoy staying at state parks and such,” Justin says. “I am always at home just sleeping in the van after we have played a good show.”
Justin attended Lupton Junior High and graduated from Curry High School. His parents bought him his first guitar in high school under the condition that he would perform in the youth band at their local church, Cornerstone Assembly of God. Although Justin has never been a fan of the contemporary Christian genre, he loves to play Gospel music. “In Gospel music, you get elements of country and rock mixed together.”
The songs of Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires pay homage to their Alabama heritage. Bains, the bands lead vocalist and principal songwriter, was also born and bred in Alabama. A writer at heart, Bains spent time studying literature at a college in New York before returning to Alabama to focus on his music.
Take a moment and listen to selections such as “Red, Red, Dirt of Home“ or “Ain’t No Stranger” from the album and you will hear a high energy, raw sound that some have compared to Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Allman Brothers. These songs are an ample contrast to tracks such as “Roebuck Parkway” or even “Choctaw Summer,” which have a true Southern swampy feel to them. All of the songs are written by Bains and perfected by the combination of musical talent collectively known as the Glory Fires.
In “Righteous, Ragged Songs” Bains reflects on how his music mirrors his life.
If we just stop and think
About the one thing we done right
It’d be writing ragged songs
About a righteous ragged life.
If we stop and think a bit longer
About where we went all wrong
It’d be learning how to live
From a righteous ragged song.
Colburn is living an interesting double-agent-life of BBQ master and soulful musician. By day, he reaches deep into the pit of fire to deliver a perfectly tender rack of ribs, and by night he bastes the pit of his soul, delivering music that artfully expresses struggles of a common man.
This fall, the band has played in New Orleans, Austin, Dallas, and Atlanta, along with regular gigs in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.
“Back in the spring, we toured with the Alabama Shakes for nine dates, which took us to Toronto, NYC, Phillie, and Vermont,” says Colburn. “We will typically be gone for 10-14 days and we will play every night and travel to the next venue during the day,” says Justin.
When the band is not touring, you will find Justin working from a very different van, the white pig truck of Jim N Nicks catering. “I love working here in Jasper. My co-workers truly feel like family to me. I can always walk in the store, throw on my apron and feel right at home.”
Right at home is where he feels on the stage as well. “I like playing to a medium-sized crowd. It’s cool when your crowd is able to get up close to the stage. We have had the opportunity to play with bigger bands that we really didn’t like and we turned them down. We want to stay true to the music we love.”
Justin Colburn definitely is living a double life, but for him, it is the best of both worlds.
“My future is just one big question mark,” he says, “but for now, I’m gonna play this out till the end.”
Not a bad gig for a Walker County boy.