Yes, the Drive-By Truckers are back. Not that they’ve ever been away. Their last 3 albums have seen them examining America, in all it’s good, bad and ugliness. Their last 2 in particular casting a coruscating eye over the Trump years.
So what next? The band headed into the studio and, with no particular intention of creating a new album, bashed one out in three frantic days. This time, however, the band are casting their eye back, back to their formative years, their early years as the brilliantly named Adam’s House Cat.
As you’d expect from an album created in 3 days, it has a wonderful, loose, live feel, brilliantly captured and recorded by longtime collaborator Dave Barbe, the majority of tracks recorded in one or two takes. It’s the sound of a seasoned band of road warriors doing what they do best.
They kick off with 7 brooding minutes of ‘The Driver’ (see above). The DBT’s are back and rocking, that scruffy Les Paul growl is definitely front and centre and it has attitude in spades. Patterson Hood reminisces about the band’s early days, driving across country in “a van full of stink” while the ensuing, howling guitar solo reverberates around the canyons and plains they traversed.
Mike Cooley then takes over vocal duties for ‘Maria’s Awful Disclosures’. It’s another Truckers song you feel like you’ve known for years, it’s raw and urgent and ends with a nice Beatles-y backwards guitar solo.
We then head into the midsection of the album which hits a spontaneous, Neil Young-esque mellow, lazy kinda groove. The songs look back with a sepia hue, a hard won sense of middle-aged wisdom. It’s scuzzy Country, pedal steel begins to make it’s presence felt with more regularity. “Like a haze across the skyline” sings Hood at one point, summing up the sound of the album perfectly.
And on we go, the title track is a chugging rocker, reminiscing about a Muscle Shoals club the band used to play, it’s car park full of “sidewinders and spandex”. Margo Price lends her glorious backing vocals to a track or two while the guitars crank back up to 11 to join a horn section for ‘Every Single Storied Flameout’.
More than anything, this album feels like an ode to the road, to criss-crossing the country with the radio on…and occasionally off while they soak in the majesty of the landscape. The reverb-drenched, echoing guitar solo’s create a feeling of huge swathes of time and space being travelled and, for me, this is how the album is best experienced, cranked up loud on a long drive with no particular destination. The journey is the thing.
The album ends with ‘Wilder Days’ and another rueful backward glance to a time when we were “young and full of big beliefs that life could not sustain”. Hoods voice reverberates around the mountains and cacti before the album (aptly) fades out off into the distance in a plume of prairie dust. If you’re a fan of the Drive-By Truckers then this is a no-brainer. The band are on form and rocking. Brilliantly performed and produced, it’s an big album of (and for) wide open spaces.
Review by Gary Cordwell
Released on 3 June 2022 by ATO Records
- The Driver
- Maria’s Awful Disclosures
- Shake and Pine
- We Will Never Wake You Up In The Morning
- Welcome 2 Club XIII
- Forged In Hell And Heaven Sent
- Every Single Storied Flameout
- Billy Ringo In The Dark
- Wilder Days