# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Drive-By Truckers - Ugly Buildings, Whores and Politicians

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 9 / 12 / 2011

Drive-By Truckers - Ugly Buildings, Whores and Politicians
Label: New West Records
Format: CD


Worthy, but flawed career retrospective from seminal Atlanta alt-country band, the Drive-By Truckers

The Drive-By Truckers’ appeal lies in their ability to celebrate the rock ‘n’ roll myth, while also transcending it. This collection of 16 songs introduces a band who can excel at jaunty alt-country, dirty blues and fist-pumping hard rock. Most of the songs are written by the band’s leader Patterson Hood, whose throaty rasp contrasts with that of the other ever-present member Mike Cooley, whose country twang can still handle a big rock song when it wants to. Jason Isbell joined the band five years into their story, in time for Decoration Day, and contributed a true classic, 'Outfit', a tribute to his father. But, he was gone by the time of 2008’s 'Brighter Than Creation’s Dark', by which time bass player (and Isbell’s ex-wife) Shona Tucker had graduated to song writing duties, contributing a couple of songs to each of their last three albums. This collection begins with 'The Living Bubba', a moving tribute to Gregory Dean Smalley, an Alabama musician who played hundreds of shows whilst dying of Aids. Smalley responded to his death sentence by joining as many bands as he possibly could, playing live with them every night of the week. It was the standout track on their first album, 'Gangstabilly' (1998), written just a few days before Smalley’s death. The Drive-By Truckers story is irrevocably linked to the music scene they came from. Smalley was the driving force behind Bubbapalooza, a three-day showcase for the Atlanta alt-country scene. Hood has written since that his time working as a sound engineer, seeing lots of these bands play night after night to often tiny audiences, was when his “faith” in music crystallised. It was all about the playing, all about the rock, he said. His description of Greg Smalley’s music, written in 2003, un-coincidentally sums up what is so great about his own band. “He was a true believer. His songs cooked under their seemingly funny surface to reveal the same ageless longings that have earmarked great rock ’n’ roll songs since the beginning of the form”. The Truckers might have used joke titles for their albums, and featured equally cartoons on the cover, but from the word go, they worked to subvert any clichés there may be about Southern rock bands. Hood – the son of a Muscle Shoals session man – loves his home state and its musical heritage, but has spent a ten year career looking at the struggles of those living with what he calls ‘the duality of the Southern Thing’. In 2001, they embarked on an intense exploration of that very duality with 'Southern Rock Opera', a twenty song double album that tells the story of Southern Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They had planned the album for many years (‘Pizza Deliverance’, their second, was a round up of their early songs, in the knowledge that their next work would be very different). It was the breakthrough the band needed – the scale of ambition astonished critics. But, most subsequent works have seen them return to a mix of country, rock and blues – only seeking to recreate the arena rock sound in moderation. There’s not a note to fault on this album, but nevertheless, fans would doubtless have wanted something better. Patterson Hood wrote revealing and insightful sleevenotes for the rarity’s album that arrived in 2009. Sleevenotes here from a 'Rolling Stone' critic are fine, but the lack of band imput betrays the fact that this is a contractual exercise from the band’s old label, and not something the Truckers themselves actively involved themselves in. Sixteen songs, of course, is nowhere near enough. The songs here overemphasise the band’s hard rock material – leaving out the acoustic songs, ballads and soul-influenced material that is as important a part of the story. They’ve made two albums since leaving New West for a new label, and some of those songs would be on this disc by rights, too. A proper DBT anthology will be needed one day. But, if we assume that this album will be an introduction to a new fan, then its more than worthy. Ultimately, the Truckers are a proper rock ‘n’ roll band. They’ve seen line-up changes, successes and failures, peaks and troughs (the band was close to breaking up when Isbell left, only to return with their best album a year later). They’ve played to empty rooms, but now sell-out big venues with ease. If you’re looking for the rock myth lived out for real, its all here. Meanwhile, the Rolling Stones play on without a bassist, who cannot be photographed with the group lest he get paid an equal share of the money. The Drive-By Truckers would never do that. In the sleeve-notes, critic David Fricke says that the Truckers are “the best American band a lot of people still need to know”. Spot on.

Track Listing:-
1 The Living Bubba
2 Bulldozers and Dirt
3 Ronnie And Neil
4 Zip City
5 Let There Be Rock
6 Marry Me
7 Sink Hole
8 Carl Perkins' Cadillac
9 Outfit
10 The Righteous Path
11 Gravity's Gone (remix)
12 Never Gonna Change
13 Three Dimes Down
14 Lookout Mountain
15 Uncle Frank (alternate version)
16 A World Of Hurt

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