Review: The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark
By Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan
I don’t remember the first time I met Trae Crowder. I sincerely hope he don’t remember, either.
The small show I went to was free, so I got there early to make sure I got a seat. Me, being a fool, didn’t eat anything and proceeded to drink approximately half a fifth of straight bourbon. I’m pretty sure I yelled “SKEEEEW” when he and his openers were funny, and I think I yelled “roll tide” every time he shit on Alabama Crimson Tide Football. Trae, Corey, and Drew are Vols fans. They’re funny and always right so I’ll let that egregious character flaw slide.
Needless to say, I don’t remember a single joke from that show. Apparently, I asked Trae for a selfie and I look flawless in the photo–but Lord knows what I said to the boy. But I do remember the second show, when I behaved myself at the historic Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee. I also got to see Corey and Drew do their thing there, which was worth the bullshit four hours I spent in construction traffic on I-40 headed their way from Nashville. I masked my trip as an effort to see my lovely best friend and Knoxville resident, but we all know I just went to see those boys.
The Bitter Southerner put out a great article on the Well Red trio if you want to read more. Click here.
Corey Ryan Forrester, the CHO (Chief Hittin’ Officer), is from Chickamauga, Georgia. His humor is silly and obscene, which just so happens to be my favorite kind of humor. Corey is the one in the Well Red Comedy trio that I would like to get Everclear drunk with and shoot squirrels with BB guns off the back of a 4-wheeler. Goddamn, that would hit. But also fuck him, because I’ve had “Indian Outlaw” by Tim McGraw stuck in my head in his voice since he sang a line of it on their podcast.
Drew Morgan, the smartass of the three, is a former public defender and specialist of wry, sharp, and biting intellectual jokes. He opens his set with the bitter quip: “I am the son of a Southern Baptist preacher and a Sunday-school teacher. Knowing how genetics work, that makes me an alcoholic.” Knowing how comradery works, that makes us related.
Trae Crowder, the big-timing, big-hittin’ famous one of the three from Celina, Tennessee made some YouTube videos last year that blew up. This isn’t to say he doesn’t deserve that fame–he surely does. His videos were formerly filmed “from the porch” with his cutoff T-shirt and ball cap, where he bitched about current events while speaking straight to my soul. Now he films them from his much-deserved house in Los Angeles, although I think he might get deported from California at some point. I just believe his best jokes are in his standup, on the podcast, and, by fake-God, in his book.
The three published The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark in October 2016, right before the proverbial and literal shit hit the fan. The paperback edition was released earlier this month, available and autographed on their website. And buddy, y’all need to go buy that damn book.
Over twelve chapters, the boys talk about poverty, religion, Southern foodways, family, music, race, gender, alcohol, drugs, and everything in between. They open the book with a listicle entitled “The New South Bill of Wrongs” and end the book with “The Ten Commandments of the New South,” which provides a pretty succinct outline of what we as a people can do better. Each chapter is broken up into parts with “Porch Talks” from the authors that cover various anecdotes from their respective raisings, or interludes of illustrated graphs like the “Rebel Flag Replacement” section, which recommends a black flag with the number 3–RIP Earnhardt. The entire book is covered in mostly nonsensical but hilarious and informative footnotes, where they even defined terms which my redneck ass didn’t know–like “muzzle loader” (we called them flintlocks). I think that’s the major success of the book because they’re not just educating Portland Baristas like Tristan. They’re educating their own people, and perhaps changing the minds of both.
Surprisingly, my favorite chapter was “Women in the South.” Normally, when men explain to me how women in the South function my eyes roll so far back in my brain that I watch neurons fire off. But naw, they were pretty…right. They grapple with the dual role if not the outright contradiction that Southern women, on average, are strong as hell and usually foster matriarchal communities, but ultimately take a back seat in overt power like the church. This chapter’s interludes include Odes to Southern Women, which, I’ll be damned, characterized about every woman I know.
As an example, I identified with the “Free Spirit” Southern woman. She’s got a purse full of whiskey (I do), dances early and often (hits), and ain’t living right if she remembers the good time she had the night before (“hangovers are for pussies” apparently, though). When the boys talk about Southern mamas, you read their deep affection toward the women that often take care of the whole community. One of the most exhausting passages to read offers a spot on portrayal of a Southern mama:
“Another Southern tradition for women […] is takin’ care of the family members who get sick or old. Or addicted. Or kids caught in the wake of illness or addiction. Southern women take care of their parents, their husband’s parents, and oftentimes other people’s kids. They take in siblings’ kids, their cousin’s kids, the one who finally got off meth but is on pills now. Show me a person who has worked a shift at the plant, beat her own kid’s ass for smokin’ weed out back, beat her sister’s kid for being there while he did, changed her eighty-year-old demented father’s diaper, reheated leftovers from the dinner made the night before, and dyed her roots so they’d look good this weekend–all running on one meal and three glasses of boxed wine–and I’ll show you a Southern woman” (225).
Similarly, their characterization of papaws, complete with a daily schedule for a Southern papaw, was like reading the itinerary for a day in the life of my dead pawpaw. They just get it. And they get it within the vernacular and dialect of people who are never taken seriously. Yes, these boys are comedians, but they’re basically brilliant and don’t hide their accents to change the New South into something academic, dry, and artificial. And that takes balls, a lot of hard work, and, I’m sure, a lot of people not taking them seriously. Which is a damn shame.
Obviously, the central thread of the book is balancing the liberal proclivities of the writers with their upbringings. They balance those polarities so well that at points I forget how important and challenging their stances are. The chapters called “The Draw” and “Pillbillies” are the sharpest examples of their deep understandings of the realities of the South and ideologies behind those shifts. They recognize how bad the South is hurting, the extent that structural disenfranchisement leads to tangible suffering, and can speak about poverty the way so few people can because they know its realities. They’re fair, balanced, and willing to complicate the accusations that Southerners are conservative “because they’re dumb and hateful,” or, on the other hand, the apologies for a South that “isn’t as bad” as the outside thinks it is.
They’re comfortable in that middle ground, vacillating between pride and shame fluidly and fairly. In the chapter on OG Southerners, “Mamaws and Papaws,” they say, “Living paycheck to paycheck to barely scrape by while still being eaten alive by the pride a man has to make life better for his kids is not a breeding ground for opening your mind” (147). Anyone who has lived a day in the South knows that to be true, and knows the base fact that class disenfranchisement breeds shame and resentment. They don’t excuse hatefulness but understand that until we explain where it comes from and do something about very genuine concerns like I don’t know, crippling poverty, we will never be able to change minds. They don’t conflate class and race–but they complicate the relationship expertly.
If you want to see or listen to how damn right and funny these boys are, you can do a couple things. First, buy this damn book. Second, go to one of their shows. They’re pretty much always on tour (God bless their wives for putting up with them), so see them live and don’t get blackout drunk like my dumb ass. Listen to their podcast, and you’ll be magically transported to your buddy’s trailer–the one that has a grilled cheese tattooed on one calf and a taco on the other with knives raised in combat (that’s true)–and give them boys some damn Patreon money. Watch Trae’s videos, all of them, and share them on your Soc Meeds of choice. Hell, just mail them a box of money, because if somebody has to be the voice of the regenerated New South that can actually make sense of it and don’t talk like a patronizing Anderson Cooper, I want it to be these boys.
Edit: Corey Forrester let me know via Twitter that I made a terrible mistake, so let me make this clear: Corey is a Georgia Bulldogs fan, not a Vols fan. While that does impact my (increased) respect for him, it does NOT diminish that Trae and Drew are, in fact, Vols fans. Use that information as you will. Boys still hit.