Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Got the Need to Blow It Out on Saturday Night

Occasionally, there have been tunes that have inspired me. More often, though, it's been a band that has become my favorite that has been inspiring with their catalog. In 2002, I had just moved my family to Wilmington, North Carolina, which is still holding on by a thread as being my favorite place I've lived in this country, after living almost 7 years in Pensacola, Florida. I was reading a Rolling Stone magazine and read something about the Drive-By Trucker's Southern Rock Opera.

I think I used Lime Wire or some other shit download software and pulled all the songs from Southern Rock Opera off the internet. I must have listened to disc one of that album for like 6 months straight. Then I found a Yahoo group that was dedicated to the band.

Soon thereafter, Decoration Day was released. I bought the CD right away and they became my favorite band. When I got my head cut at the end of 2002, a member of the Yahoo group who worked for the same company as me in a different state sent me a whole bunch of live recordings by the Drive-By Truckers to ease the pain of losing my job. In fact, there was another guy who contacted me from that list to see if I would be interested in moving to Memphis to work for his construction company, which I thought was damn nice.

Writing about the DBT is a difficult thing to do, because I could talk about this band all day. I'll give you a brief rundown if you have never heard of them before: Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are the two main guys in the band, but if you have to pick a leader, it's Hood's band. Both Hood and Cooley grew up in Alabama. Hood's dad is David Hood, who played bass in the Swampers, the "house band" for Muscle Shoals Sound, where a lot of great music has been recorded. You maybe could give a fuck about that. It lets me know that Patterson has a great appreciation for the history of music in this country, and THAT is important for me, because understanding history is important, boys and girls, even in rock and roll.

When Decoration Day came out, Jason Isbell joined the band and provided them with a third songwriter. He stuck around for two albums, wrote some great songs, and now has a solo career. Shonna Tucker also joined the band at this time on bass, and even has 3 songs on their latest release, Brighter Than Creation's Dark.

There's a lot more to the history of the band, but if you're that interested, I suggest you check out their website, run by the wonderful Jenn, or go over to the Nine Bullets forum. You can join the Yahoo group if you want, but mostly you'll just get crazy great messages from Ant and others who may discuss the band, but there's no guarantee. Also, if you like your DBT sprinkled with liberal politics (and who wouldn't?), check out J's site called Alabama Asswhupin'.

The greatest thing about the Drive-By Truckers is that you could get 15 people in the room to talk about which songs are best on any album, and you'd likely come up with 15 different lists. You may think a song is the greatest they've ever written and there are people who would say it was their worst, and vice-versa. There is something for everyone in this band.

I have only seen the band once; it was at the Vic Theatre in Chicago in May of 2006. They came on and Cooley started playing "One of These Days" off Pizza Deliverance. There's a line in that song that goes, "I remember him saying Chicago was a hell right here on earth..." When Cooley sang that line, I completely lost my shit. Some people cry at movies. I cry at rock concerts.

Let's start things off with a recent tune off their latest album, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, "The Righteous Path." The most amazing thing about this video is how awesome it looks and sounds. If only half the vids on Youtube were this amazing...seriously, open a new tab and just listen to the sound. The mix of instruments is so great. It may even sound better than the actual album, and that's saying something.

Really, though, you can go to and check out the entire show. This is probably the best way to introduce you to this band. In a lot of cases, these live arrangements are better than the studio ones, including the first tune, "Putting People on the Moon", which grooves so nicely here. I recommend checking out the versions of "Zip City" and "I'm Sorry, Huston" as well, if you're short on time. I would've created a muxtape for you, but the RIAA has completely shot that to hell. So here's a list of my favorite tunes by the DBT. And I do own all of these CDs. The artwork by Wes Freed alone makes them worth having.

From Pizza Deliverance:
"Nine Bullets", "Uncle Frank", "One of These Days", "Margo and Harold"

From Gangstabilly:
"The Living Bubba", "Panties in Your Purse", "18 Wheels of Love", "Sandwiches for the Road". I'm sorry, but I'm not a big fan of "Steve McQueen" or "Buttholeville". They're okay in a live setting, but to me, they stick out like sore thumbs on this album of mostly acoustic-styled numbers.

From Southern Rock Opera:
Everything on disc one is pretty much a keeper except for the spoken word selections (Days of Graduation and The 3 Alabama Icons) and "Moved". " Zip City" is my overall favorite of the disc. There is just something so beautiful about the statement "I got three-fifty heads on a three-o-five engine, I get ten miles to the gallon, I ain't got no good intentions" that has nothing to do with automobile engines and fuel efficiency.

Disc two has some pretty great songs as well. My favorites are "Let There Be Rock", "Plastic Flowers on the Highway" (so haunting and beautiful), and the lyrical winner, "Shut Up and Get on the Plane". Yes, Cooley, living in fear is just another way of dying before your time.

From Decoration Day:
"Outfit", the title track, "Heathens", "When the Pin Hits the Shell"

From The Dirty South:
This is damn near as perfect album as I have heard from anyone. The track order flows so nicely. Overall very rocking. I can't say as there are a lot of my favorites on this album, but they are all at least 4-star songs. If I had to pick three, I'd go with "Tornadoes", "Danko/Manuel" and "Daddy's Cup".

From A Blessing and a Curse:

I really like what they did on this album. Some really good tunes on here, and a little bit of a departure from their past stuff. I like "Aftermath USA", "Gravity's Gone", the title track and "Daylight".

From Brighter Than Creation's Dark:
What's cool on this album is there are quite a few songs less than 3 minutes. Sorta fucks with what I'm used to. "Checkout Time in Vegas" has 26 seconds of instrumental before the lyrics kick in, and it's only 2:41 in length. When a song starts out mellow then delivers the words, "Bloody nose, empty pockets, a rented car with a trunk full of guns," you know Cooley brought his best to this album. That includes "A Ghost to Most", which I think is Cooley's best song ever. If this song was released in 1978, it would be a top 10 hit. I really like what Shonna is saying in "I'm Sorry Huston." Even though it's about an intense, small man looking for a horse, the lyrics really say so much more to me than what it was written about. Patterson's got a ton of great songs on here as well, including "The Righteous Path", "That Man I Shot" (real cool song about soldiers and people in Iraq) and the thoughtful "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife".

The Drive-By Truckers are on tour with The Hold Steady this fall. Check them out if you can. I've heard a few tunes by the Hold Steady and I think they're great. If you're at the show, the DBT recommend you enjoy it with a can or 8 of Pabst Blue Ribbon.


TK said...

Aw, I really dig "Steve McQueen." I maintain that "Late for Church," off of Gangstabilly is one of their very best songs.

And yes, I'm going to their Boston show. Woo hoo!

Just Joe said...

I love DBT, glad to see them getting some love from y'all. My favorite track from them is probably "Decoration Day", but it's hard to find a song I don't like. Nice write-up.

Jez said...

Thanks, Joe. Tough write-up for me as I could just go on and on about them and they have so many facets I love; one is that their music is so honest. Patterson in the past has talked about the dichotomy of the Southern Thing. Just like their music can be sweet and honest and at the same time so rocking is kind of a dichotomy. I wish I could have put a mixed tape up with this post.

Just Joe said...

I agree, Jez, it's really grounded stuff, which might be why I enjoy it so much. Shame Muxtape went down, this would be the occasion.

Narm said...

Hey Jez

You originally turned me on to DBT and I've been hooked ever since. Seen them three times now (and Isbell twice as a solo artist) - the most recent DBT show being with the Hold Steady (my favorite band). The tracks you mentioned are all incredible - and every time I hear "One of These Days" I get stopped cold. An absolutely amazing band that can write a song that makes you dance and song that makes you cry and put em on the same album.

Thanks for the recommendation - I've been at the ROCK SHOW ever since.