Tag: drive-by truckers

***2016 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Drive-By Truckers – American Band (2016)

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At the turn of the century, Drive-By Truckers released their double LP breakthrough opus, Southern Rock Opera. 15 years later, they’re back with a sequel of sorts in American Band.  While Rock Opera tackled the dark past of their southern homeland, from the Civil War to civil rights, their latest tightens much of the focus on time to the present day, while expand geographically to the entire United States.

From Black Lives Matter, to gun control, to border issues ad immigration, to the conservative right wing, to exposing the ignorance of a rose coloured nostalgia for the good old days, core song writers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have exploited their southern rock, 60s soul and (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Drive-By Truckers – American Band (2016)

truckers-1
At the turn of the century, Drive-By Truckers released their double LP breakthrough opus, Southern Rock Opera. 15 years later, they’re back with a sequel of sorts in American Band.  While Rock Opera tackled the dark past of their southern homeland, from the Civil War to civil rights, their latest tightens much of the focus on time to the present day, while expand geographically to the entire United States.

From Black Lives Matter, to gun control, to border issues ad immigration, to the conservative right wing, to exposing the ignorance of a rose coloured nostalgia for the good old days, core song writers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have exploited their southern rock, 60s soul and (more…)

COMING SOON | Drive-By Truckers – American Band (2016)

Truckers 1

I stumbled across Drive-By Truckers thanks to an A.V Club article about bands with multiple songwriters.  That was around the release of their 2008 record, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.  An album that made me go back and listen to everything they made before then, and be aware of everything that came after.  For about five years, I really liked the Truckers.  Then, in 2014, they released English Oceans, and my music listening has been completely dominated by the band ever since.  My like turned to love, turned to obsession, with the only substantial breaks in listening to them coming via listening to Jason Isbell, who used to be a member of…  Wait for it…  Drive-By Truckers.

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LIVE MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Melbourne Recital Hall, 29/03/16

Isbell 1

I first became aware of the Drive-By Truckers around the time of their 2008 release, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.  In the years after that, I liked them, but remained a casual fan at best.  Then, a few years ago, there was the one-two punch of the Truckers’ English Oceans, and former Truckers member Jason Isbell’s Southeastern.  Both blew my mind and have lead to an obsession, bordering on unhealthy, ever since.  I’d heard Isbell’s other solo albums, but for me, Southeastern was the one where he stopped being the block who used to be a Drive-By Trucker, and became one of the absolute best song writers in music today.

I missed his Southeastern tour for some reason I can’t remember, but I knew there was no way I wouldn’t be there this time around as he hit Australia with his band The 400 Unit in support of last year’s double Grammy winner, Something More Than Free.  And you know what, after months of anticipation, my high hopes were nothing compared to the amazing show I got last night. (more…)

***2015 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (2015)

Isbell
Two years ago, Jason Isbell was several albums into his solo career. But I still thought of him mainly as the dude who used to be in Drive-By Truckers and I wished was still in Drive-By Truckers. Then he released Southeastern, an album that received amazing praise across the board. And even better, it lived up to that praise. Southeastern was Isbell declaring himself a legitimate solo artist who had more than broken the chains connecting him to his old band. So while I was interested in Southeastern before it came out, I was in no way expecting the watershed record that it ended up being. This time around, in the lead up to its follow up, I have been officially stoked, pumped, excited and hanging out for Something More Than Free for nigh on six months.


With the fiddle of Amanda Shires almost as prominent as Isbell’s voice and guitar, It Takes a Lifetime is exactly the kind of traditional country with a modern feel that I want from Isbell. Leading in to the singer, songwriter stuff of 24 Frames, and Something More Than Free is quickly living up to my half a year of anticipation. Isbell’s older than his years, world weary voice has always been one of his greatest assets. And delivering lines like, “This is how you make yourself vanish into nothing, and this is how you make yourself worthy of the love that she gave to you back when you didn’t own a beautiful thing”, is exactly what it was made for. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (2015)

Isbell
Two years ago, Jason Isbell was several albums into his solo career. But I still thought of him mainly as the dude who used to be in Drive-By Truckers and I wished was still in Drive-By Truckers. Then he released Southeastern, an album that received amazing praise across the board. And even better, it lived up to that praise. Southeastern was Isbell declaring himself a legitimate solo artist who had more than broken the chains connecting him to his old band. So while I was interested in Southeastern before it came out, I was in no way expecting the watershed record that it ended up being. This time around, in the lead up to its follow up, I have been officially stoked, pumped, excited and hanging out for Something More Than Free for nigh on six months.


With the fiddle of Amanda Shires almost as prominent as Isbell’s voice and guitar, It Takes a Lifetime is exactly the kind of traditional country with a modern feel that I want from Isbell. Leading in to the singer, songwriter stuff of 24 Frames, and Something More Than Free is quickly living up to my half a year of anticipation. Isbell’s older than his years, world weary voice has always been one of his greatest assets. And delivering lines like, “This is how you make yourself vanish into nothing, and this is how you make yourself worthy of the love that she gave to you back when you didn’t own a beautiful thing”, is exactly what it was made for. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (2010)

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With Sirens in the Ditch, Jason Isbell made a clean break from his days in Drive-By Truckers.  As great as his collaborations with that band were, Sirens was a pretty good argument to be made that Isbell was always meant to be a solo artist, with complete control over the music he made.  It had signs of his best Truckers songs, while also showing that his split with the band was inevitable as their musical directions grew further and further apart.  With Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, he stretched his legs even more.


The album slinks in with the odd but effective combination of dirty slide guitar and bright piano on Seven-Mile Island.  There are plenty of instruments, but they’re all turned right down, providing the perfect showcase for Isbell’s weary beyond its years voice.  Followed up by Sunstroke, a tender, piano driven ballad, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit is generally on the quieter side of the Isbell spectrum.   While I generally love his rockers more than his softies, these songs make a great paring and a great intro to this album. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Patterson Hood – Killers and Stars (2004)

Patterson Hood
In 2004, Drive-By Truckers were six years and five albums into their life as a band.  According to the odd interview I’ve read with members of the band, it was make or break time.  The practical decision would have been to try to tailor their sound to make it a little more main stream and accessible.  Instead, they embarked on a double record concept album about Lynard Skynard, the chequered history of America’s south, and the duality of the southern man.


It was a huge gamble that paid off.  Southern Rock Opera was the double record concept album that broke the band and took them to the level that meant they could headline their own tours and keep going completely on their own terms.  That’s a huge deal, a huge risk and huge part of the band’s history.  Which makes it even more mind blowing that at the same time, Drive-By Trucker’s Patterson Hood decided to also make his own first solo album, Killers and Stars. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Sirens in the Ditch (2008)

Isbell

For three albums and about as many years, Jason Isbell was such an integral part of Drive-By Truckers, that his tenure  there is one the most definite and definable periods in that band’s history.  And as important as he was to that time in that band, hearing Isbell’s contributions to A Blessing and a Curse, his last album as a Trucker, it’s clear that he and the band were moving in different directions.  It’s a great album, and Isbell’s contributions are solid, but a lot of those songs sound like they’re from a different band.


Seven years later, he would release Southeastern, an amazingly well reviewed album that would take the newly clean and sober Isbell to a new level as a respected and popular solo artist, singer, songwriter and legitimate headliner performer.  But in between, there were a few years and a couple of albums of Jason Isbell figuring out who he was as a solo artist, singer and songwriter.  The first of those albums was Sirens in the Ditch. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Booker T – Potato Hole (2009)

Booker T
I can’t name a single Booker T song off the top of my head, but I know that his organ playing is legendary. I also know that he’s a bit of a funk founding father. Well, at least I think I know these things about him. Because thinking about it, I can’t remember a single reason why I ‘know’ these things at all. But I think that’s kind of proof of his legend. His name and his area of expertise have entered my brain in a totally subconscious way. Now, I’m trying to make it conscious, buy listening to Potato Hole.


Sure, I could have gone back to one of his hallowed classic albums from decades past, but why would I do that when he has an album from six years ago, on which the mighty Drive-By Truckers played the part of his backing bad? And their contribution is immediately right out there, for everyone to hear with the crunching guitars of Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood. But as big as they are, that doesn’t stop Booker T’s organ from taking front and centre on Pound It Out.

The raucous rock of the Truckers and fellow backing band member Neil Young are all but completely abandoned on She Breaks. This is pure Hammond organ greatness in all its glory. Even when the guitars solo, Booker T’s organ on backups is the standout. An instrumental cover of the Outkast classic, Hey Ya manages to keep the fun of the original without the awesome Andre Benjamin vocals or lyrics. That’s the sign of a good musician, right there.

It’s hard to get into specifics about an album like this without saying the same thing over and over. Ultimately, it’s an instrumental album, built around a single, very specific instrument at its centre. So to say it sounds very similar from track to track isn’t totally inaccurate. But it’s also not meant as a bad thing either. That constant centre gives it a real unifying sound and consistency that I really like. It just means my reasons for liking it don’t differ all that much as I make my way through the track listing.

Can something sound extremely dated, yet timelessly cool at the same time? Yes, yes it can. And I have proof. Booker T and Potato Hole.

Booker T

MUSIC REVIEW | Eddie Hinton – Letters From Mississippi (1987)

Eddie Hinton

Until a few months ago, I’m pretty sure I’d never heard the name Eddie Hinton. Now, I don’t know much more. But what I do know is, a Drive-By Truckers song that I’ve liked for a long time, Where’s Eddie, is really cool. I also recently found out that a few tracks on the Truckers Go-Go Boots album, including Where’s Eddie, are Hinton covers. So while I may not know much about Eddie Hinton, I know the Drive-By Truckers rate him pretty highly, and I can’t think of as much better recommendation. So here I am, diving into Letters From Mississippi.


The opening, title track lets me know that Hinton is one of those vocalists who makes up for any short comings in his vocal range with pure feeling. When his voice brakes, it doesn’t detract from the song. In fact, it makes it all the more affecting. It also lets me know that Eddie Hinton dealt in a pretty dirty, southern rock kind of sound. This is some Credence Clearwater / Lynard Skynard type stuff, and it’s a more than promising start to the album.

But straight away, Hinton lets me know it’s not all about the shit kicking southern rock. Everybody Needs Love betrays his Muscle Shoals origins with its soul roots. Complete with a spoken word story verse, Everybody Needs Love is a white dude sounding cooler than any white dude ever has any right to sound. Then it’s time for some boot scootin’ country rock with Uncloudy Days. It’s simple, to the point and kind of cool, even when it borders on corny.

On I Believe In Our Love, things get a little more slick, and that’s not really a good thing. Sure, if I had heard this song first, I’d probably like it a lot more. But coming after the raw, gritty realness of songs like I Will Always Love You, the extra polish takes some of that raw and gritty reality away. It’s also just kind of rambling and boring. Aimlessly shuffling nowhere for over four minutes.


Thankfully, the lull doesn’t last long, and Hinton is back, with Letters From Mississippi firing on all cylinders again with Ting-a-Ling-Ling and It’s All Right. They sound like a band all playing together, warts and all. Not individual tracks produced to perfection, then meticulously put together.

Complete with its dancing horn section, My Searching is Over sounds like it comes straight off The Blues Brothers soundtrack. I’m not sure if I mean that as a compliment or criticism. On the one hand, I love that movie and pretty much every song in it. On the other, I’m totally aware of the fact that it’s the ultimate clueless white guy idea of rhythm, blues and soul music.


This kind of soul and R and B is right up there with the genres of music I have the least amount of experience with. Its peak years happened long before I was born and it’s a genre I’ve never really had any interest in. I never actively avoided it, I just never sought it out either. Hearing Eddie Hinton on Letters From Mississippi is the perfect kind of entry level stuff to make me want to hear more and dig deeper.

Eddie Hinton

MOVIE REVIEW | The Secret to a Happy Ending (2009)

Secret

“Rock and roll means well, but it can’t help tellin’ young boys lies”.

For most of my life, country music seemed like the least appealing genre of music ever committed to tape. Then I found a band called Drive-By Truckers and realised that country music can be kind of amazing. For 25 odd years now, they’ve been plugging away, building an ever growing following and getting more and more successful. It’s that slow and steady rise that makes the Drive-By Truckers story such a great one to tell with The Secret to a Happy Ending.


Focusing mainly on singers and guitarists Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, it’s a history lesson on the band, how they came to be and the ups and downs along the way, leading up to the firing of Isbell. Sometimes, seeing how art is made can take some of the magic and mystery out of it, but the southern story telling charm of every Trucker means this look behind the curtain gives their songs even more dimension. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Patterson Hood – Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance (2012)

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After three solo albums and writing the majority of 10 long players for the Drive-By Truckers, prolific doesn’t quite seem to do justice to the output of Patterson Hood. It’s one thing to churn out great songs, but it’s another to churn out great songs where almost each and every one tells a compelling story. Well, Hood did it earlier this year, getting the writing credit on half of the Truckers awesome English Oceans. And I’m betting he did it a year ago too, with his solo outing Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. Which is a wager I’m making right now.


An acoustic guitar, a drum kit that sounds like little more than a loose kick drum, hypnotic fiddle… 12.01 is Hood at his restrained, mournful best. Replace the fiddle with tinkling piano and you get Leaving Time. On a Truckers record, I always prefer Hood’s rockers and ass kickers to his ballads and reflections, but when he goes solo, his world weary voice seems so perfect for the lighter touch. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW Mike Cooley – The Fool on Every Corner (2012)

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Here he is, the last part of the holy trinity that comes to mind when I think of Drive-By Truckers.  While Patterson Hood seems to be the guy in charge and brings the raucous, outlaw edge.  And Jason Isbell, before his sacking and as a solo artist, is all about exquisitely crafted song writing, the third piece of the puzzle brings the vintage, world weary side of country.  And that’s even more apparent in Mike Cooley’s only solo release to date, The Fool on Every Corner.


Recorded live in front of what sounds like a pretty intimate venue, this really seems like the best, and only way, to present the music of Cooley.  No backing band, no elaborate production, no frills.  Which is perfect.  Cooley writes the kind of songs that are presented best when presented simply.  Just Cooley, his lyrics, his voice and his guitar…  Or banjo.

Loaded Gun in the Closet eases The Fool on Every Corner in.  The gentle guitar picking and soft, almost closed jaw vocals of Cooley are a jarring, but great contrast, to this dark story of abuse and tragedy.

When you call a song Cottonseed, you’d better build it around some down home, cotton pickin’ banjo, and Cooley really delivers here, with the story of a man with a, “45 underneath his coat and another one in his boot”.

I’ve never doubted Cooley’s bonafides as a true country music disciple when I’ve listened to Drive-By Truckers.  In fact, I’ve always found his contributions to be the most traditional.  But hearing him here, especially on songs like Guitar Man Upstairs and Cartoon Gold, without a band, without the rocking solos and without the amazing controlled chaos of that band, his love of the old world of country is undeniable.

The only time the small venue and faithful live crowd setting works against The Fool on Every Corner is on the apparent crowd favourite Marry Me.  I really don’t need to hear some over eager, probably drunk dickhead in the crowd add his own tone deaf backing vocals.

There’s a sincerity and weight that comes with the voice of Mike Cooley.  Very few singers could get away with a line like “The price of being sober is being scared out of your mind” in Shut Up and Get on the Plane.  In the wrong hands, and most hands would be the wrong hands, it would sound self conscious and obvious at best, unearned and clichéd at worst.  But when delivered by Cooley, it sounds like a legit life lesson, learned the hard way.

While it might be made up primarily of songs Cooley had already recorded with Drive-By Truckers, The Fool on Every Corner is in no way redundant or inessential.  Stripped down to their bare essentials, every song here has new life and new reasons to listen.  It also highlights just how strong these songs are when they still sound so interesting and complex, even though they’re nothing more than Cooley, his lyrics, his voice and his guitar…  Or banjo.

Mike Cooley

MUSIC REVIEW | Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) (2009)

patterson-hood-murdering-oscar-and-other-love-songs
When I think of Patterson Hood’s contributions as the leader of Drive-By Truckers, I think of the dirtier, seedier, heavier, southern rock side of everything they do.  While Mike Cooley’s guitar and solos can be as dirty and nasty as the best of them, they generally shine the most on tracks written by Hood.  Which is why the opening, title track of Murdering Oscar, Hood’s second solo album,is such an appropriate way to kick things off.  Sludgy guitars, unrepentant lyrics and a dark shadow laying over everything.


Songs like Screwtopia, Granddaddy and The Range War make me think Hood sees his solo albums as a place to slow things down a little, relax and chill out a bit.  A lot of the Truckers albums, and especially their live shows (from what I’ve seen online, anyway) are all about hard drinkin’, hard rockin’, ass kickin’ southern rock.  Even when the band slows down, they tend to be Mike Cooley tracks, not Hood contributions.  But Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) show he does have a more tender side and is more than capable of letting it show.

At times, this quieter approach works to highlight Hood’s vocal limitations, but more often, the little wavers and slightly out of reach notes work more to add a vulnerability that perfectly matches the melancholic weary that fills so much of this album.

Heavy and Hanging ads a few more layers of instrumentation and volume to make for a combination of heavy and haunting foreboding, with a jarringly melodic chorus, where despite their clashing tones, these two disparate sounds somehow work together to make each even better.

Ending in real style, Back of a Bible is the perfect example of a genre working to its strengths, indulging in the kind of quirks that would seem like cheap tricks and gimmicks in any other style of music.   Arch lyrics, like, “Wrote you a love song on the back of a bible” could only work when sung with a world weary southern drawl, over the top of muted, barley strummed guitars and loose, hollow drums.

Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) is really good.  Actually, it’s really great.  The only thing that stops me from absolutely loving it, is the unavoidable, and possibly unfair, comparison to Hood’s day job as a Drive-By Trucker.  As much as I like the songs here, I can’t help thinking that I prefer my Patterson Hood songs turned up to eleven and soaked in moonshine fuelled rock excess.

Patterson Hood

MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Southeastern (2013)

Jason_Isbell_Southeastern-_cover-by-Michael-Wilson
My first exposure to Jason Isbell came through Drive-By Truckers.  In a band with so many strong voices, it was a while before I started to notice the individuals and the different reasons I liked each.  While Patterson Hood has a distinct voice of experience and that outlaw wink that is a part of all the best American country musicians, it was the voice and lyrics of Jason Isbell that first struck me as the most world weary, the most filled with wrong side of the tracks redemption, and the most tragically reflective.  So the first time I saw what these Drive-By Tuckerslooked like, I was blown away to see those road worn lyrics come from such a fresh, baby faced dude.


Never Gonna Change from the Driveby Truckers 2005 album The Dirty South might be my favourite of all their songs.  It’s an amazing tale of trying to escape the white trash roots of a world that’s, “Mean and strong like liquor, mean and strong like fear.  Strong like the people from South Alabama, mean like the people from here”.  Lyrics rarely impress me or contribute to what makes me like a song, but the story of Never Gonna Change demands my full attention every time I hear it.  To think that Isbell was all of 23 or 24 when he wrote it, only makes it that much more impressive. (more…)