On SRO, I assume Trucks is not considering albums from the Dirty South
(and by that I don't mean the DBT album)...
'Bama, Booze, & Boneheads
Fighting Larry the Cable Guy, the Drive-By Truckers inch away from
By Rob Trucks
Article Published May 3, 2006
If it walks like Southern rock and talks like Southern rock then it
must be Southern rock, right? Well, yeah. Unless the genre intends to
"We did all get tired of the whole Southern rock thing," says
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, the Alabama five-piece coming
to San Francisco this week. "It's like none of us really view
ourselves the way that we were being viewed."
The misconception stems from the Truckers' 2001 double album Southern
Rock Opera, a sonic landmark that single-handedly resurrected a
musical genre that had been left for dead. The record garnered
beaucoup attention from both music critics and academics who wallow in
the region's seemingly conflicting mysteries, and landed the Truckers
on a career path as certain as a cross-country train track. The
question was, "When, and how, to get off the ride?"
Cue A Blessing and a Curse, the Truckers' seventh and newest album — a
conscious attempt at redefinition. "We kind of went into it with kind
of an agenda of what we didn't want to be," Hood says. "We set out to
make a record that kind of went against a lot of the things that we
were most known for. We decided early on that we wanted to do a record
that didn't really tell a story. We didn't want it to be
Perhaps the band suffered a collective nightmare of the future as
"Exactly," Hood says. "None of us really wanted to quite be Gilligan,
you know. But it's like an actor. If he does a really good job, if
he's really good at his role he has to overcome. That guy that plays
Tony Soprano is going to have a hard time ever not being Tony Soprano
in people's eyes because he's played the fuck out of Tony Soprano. And
so we wanted to make a record that showcased some of the other things
that we know how to do, and it meant kind of taking away some of the
things that have become our calling cards."
Still, a Southernectomy is some highly serious surgery for this band.
Though fellow Trucker Mike Cooley's "Space City" (a nod to Huntsville,
Alabama) is the lone violator of A Blessing's no-specific-setting
rule, the album's title track is yet another in a long line of Bible
Belt-indicative signifiers. And then there's the sound. Third
guitarist Jason Isbell puts down that third six-string in favor of a
more delicate keyboard on occasion, but the Truckers still shred.
Lyrics about champagne hand jobs, crystal meth in the bathtub and
sucking on the end of a shotgun remain too damn gritty for any
potential backslide over to the country market.
Yet Blessing's last track, the Hood-penned "World of Hurt," works
through the band's traditionally cynical worldview to the optimistic
conclusion that it's great to be alive. Written and demo'd in the
space of just a couple of hours, "Hurt" is off-the-cuff inspiration
proving the Truckers can stand up as songwriters without a regional
"We're not trying to necessarily shed who we are and what we do," Hood
says. "I mean, our next record may be a total pendulum swing to the
other direction. Most likely the top priority next year is going to be
a direct rebellion against whatever it was we did this year. The last
thing I ever want to do is be predictable."
The Drive-By Decade
A truckin' discography
Bulldozers and Dirt/Nine Bullets (45 single) (1996): A two-song vinyl
even true fans don't own. Who has turntables? Both great songs found a
home on Pizza Deliverance.
Gangstabilly (1998): More Billy than Gangsta, the Truckers' first
full-length is also their countryest. Most notable for one of
Patterson Hood's proudest songwriting moments, "The Living Bubba."
Pizza Deliverance (1999): Some truly spooky Southern Gothic
preoccupations here, including multichambered handguns, aging redneck
swinger basements, AM radio religion, and an old woman's arachnid
Alabama Ass Whuppin' (live) (1999): Prematurely recorded at various
shows in Athens and Atlanta, it nevertheless lays the groundwork for
so many roads ahead.
Southern Rock Opera (2001): Simply put, the most important album to
come out of the South since REM's Murmur.
Decoration Day (2003): Forget ethanol: DD runs on frustration and
denial. Test-drive "Hell No I Ain't Happy."
The Dirty South (2004): Chock-full of storied anthems about the
Southern underclass (is that redundant?), including several of the
band's blood relatives.
A Blessing and a Curse (2006): The quickest way to make a Southerner
jump is to tell him that he can't. Here the Truckers do — like a