Country music and Southern culture are two things that have long suffered from an unwarranted bad rap, probably because of Top 40 radio pop songs about tractors and movies like “Deliverance.”
But alternative country band Drive-By Truckers, which proudly identifies as Southern and whose members use “y’all” without shame, manages to combine the two into a unique identity.
Its ninth studio album Go-Go Boots
, which will be released on Tuesday, serves as a testament to a certain desirability that still surrounds that old down-home charm.
The album follows The Big To-Do
, which was released last spring. The 25 tracks on The Big To-Do and Go-Go Boots
were recorded at the same time, but the band chose to spread the songs between two albums, which is why each has its distinct personality.
“If The Big To-Do
was an action adventure summertime flick ... this one is a noir film,” frontman Patterson Hood writes on the band’s Web site. The album primarily explores the music of Muscle Shoals, Ala., home to the band’s distinctive sound.
is characterized by an intricate melange of sounds, which largely arises from its many featured singers. In addition to vocals by Patterson Hood, the usual frontman of the band, the album also introduces heartrending singing by bassist Shonna Tucker, such as in “Where’s Eddie.”
The soft-spoken vocals and melancholy lyrics of this track make it stand apart from the rest of the album, and the sound is almost reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.
Another song, “Everybody Needs Love,” features guest vocals by Eddie Hinton, a former member of the country band Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section. Famous in its own right as an Alabama Hall of Music inductee, it is also well known for its mention in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
The album succeeds in keeping the listener drawn in with varying sounds and styles, but the overall feel of Go-Go Boots
is that the music is honest and raw.
The sound of Drive-By Truckers, though ultimately unique and difficult to define, borrows from great country rock musicians of the past; there is a certain anachronistic feel to the band.
From its formation in 1996, the band has been a fan of disseminating its music on vinyl, reminding us of a more genuine period of music production that has long been lost in the shuffle of iTunes and illegal torrent sites.
Despite the attention paid to tradition, Drive-By Truckers manages to keep its sound fresh and up-to-date; at times it even approaches an indie rock categorization.
There’s also a certain humor surrounding the band that might be absent from the legendary Southern country rock musicians mentioned in comparison.
For example, Drive-By Truckers has maintained its cheekiness since its first album, “Gangstabilly,” and also “Pizza Deliverance” from the late 1990s, which is readily apparent in tracks like “Cartoon Gold,” which jokes: “It’s like bringing flowers to your momma and tracking dogs—t on the floor ... Jesus made the flowers but it took the dog to make the story good.”
The single most appreciable quality of Drive-By Truckers as a band, aside from the music itself, may be its honesty as performers, its dedication to staying true to its fans and keeping personal with its creations.
“Drive-By Truckers is not some faceless corporate conglomerate,” Hood writes on the band’s Web site. “We are very much a family business.”
Hood regularly updates the Web site with blog posts, which range from simple notes about upcoming shows to funny letters addressed to fans. The albums also feature folksy, macabre art by Virginian artist Wes Freed, giving them an additional characteristic touch.
The album, as best as I can describe it, is the aural equivalent of good Southern soul food.
Regardless of the weather, the location or the mood, this album is guaranteed to transform any car ride into a sunny road trip across Alabama.
— Contact Catherine Cai