Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Now more than two decades into their impressive career -- and with more than two dozen live and studio albums behind them -- the Drive-By Truckers out of Athens in Georgia inspire passionate loyalty for their Southern-framed country rock'n'roll and literate, sometimes provocative, lyrics.
They often make you want to crack the top off a beer and kick back, but the words touch some deep and dark places as well.
They celebrate the South in all its flawed and faded glory, and longtime fans would immediately point newcomers to their exceptional Southern Rock Opera album of 2001, initially released the day after 9/11. They look at their world through the prism of a Southern blues-rock band like Lynyrd Skynyrd.
At the time they were broke and in a move wh9ich anticipated crowd-funding, solicitied for investors to stump up seed money to get the project off the ground. After its initial release the band signed to Lost Highway, re-released it and their career took off.
There was considerable talent within the band (there have been line-up changes since), notably Patterson Hood the chief singer, songwriter and co-founder (with Mike Cooley) who grew up in Muscle Shoals, Alabama where his father David was the bassist inb the Muscle Shoals studio band.
Here they open with a weary song about a guy at the gates of Heaven ("two daughters and a beautiful wife"), blast through some primal Stones'-style rock'n'roll, then offer up a troubled lyric about trying to do right in this troublesome world over a simple thunk'n'thrash.
Then Shonna Tucker steps up to the plate for her self-penned ballad I'm Sorry Huston.
Elsewhere they are pure country as played by a rock band, reflect on how rock'n'roll changed when grunge-angst was marketed to kids (Self Destructive Zones), and on Home Field Advantage sound like classic Fleetwood Mac filtered through the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Cooley plays the straight country aces like the pedal-steel coloured Lisa's Birthday and Checkout Time in Vegas.
Great lyrics leap out everywhere: "There's a big fat man on a mechanical bull in slow motion like Debra Winger"; "A bloody nose, empty pockets, a rented car with a trunk full of guns . . ."; "It's all about where you put the horizon, said the great John Ford to the young man rising"; "I don't know God but I fear his wrath, I'm trying to keep focused on the righteous path."
The war in Iraq/Afghanistan gets a drubbing from the point of view of ordinary people affected (the crunching Neil Young rock of That Man I Shot, the Petty-with-pedal steel of The Home Front), and so does the rapaciousness of crystal meth in an eerie interlude.
Lots of musical diversity and moods to get your teeth into.
This is all smart, grabbing stuff and the departure of guitarist/writer Jason Isbell the previous year didn't seem to have troubled them -- the Truckers had gained and lost members in the six years before this -- and it looked like the great keyboard layer/songwriter Spooner Oldham was a fixture in the line-up . . . but he was gone by the follow-up The Big To-Do.
Any way you cut it, Brighter Than Creation's Dark was at the time another terrific Truckers album . . . and essential in any sensible music collection which allows for rock and country and soul to co-exist with politics of the heart and the nation.
For more on Drive-By Truckers' albums at Elsewhere start here.
These Essential Elsewhere pages deliberately point to albums which you might not have thought of, or have even heard . . .
But they might just open a door into a new kind of music, or an artist you didn't know of. Or someone you may have thought was just plain boring.
But here is the way into a new/interesting/different music . . .
The deep end won't be out of your depth . . .