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Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

The core of the Drive-By Truckers is the musical braintrust of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. The Alabama natives had played together in a number of bands before taking on the Drive-By Truckers moniker. Hood and Cooley used the music to skewer the idiosyncrasies of Southern life on early albums like Gangstabilly and Pizza Deliverance. Hood, Cooley and their revolving cast of collaborators settled on an shambling, coarse-voiced sound informed by country auteurs like Gram Parsons as well as Southern-rock impresarios like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

 

Skynyrd especially was a touchstone for the band, so much so that the Truckers' third album, 2001's ambitious double-LP Southern Rock Opera, dealt rather specifically with the rise and tragic fall of Skynyrd's classic lineup. Southern Rock Opera earned the Drive-By Truckers great critical acclaim. The album employed the band's catchy brand of cowpunk-tinged, feel good alt-country to tell the story of a Southern rock band that rose to fame, excess, and decline. Patterson and Cooley also interjected disarmingly frank stories of drunks, losers, racist politicians, and a host of other characters into the fray, creating a sobering and expansive look at fame, failure and the South in the '70s.

The Drive-By Truckers thundered on, picking up an extra songwriter and guitarist in Jason Isbell. They followed Southern Rock Opera with another pair of hefty concept albums. Decoration Day and The Dirty South further cemented the group's reputation as alt-country's brightest and most ambitious gang of songwriters. The band notably broke form on A Blessing and a Curse, which was intentionally designed to be shorter, less country sounding and more thematically ranged than the last three works. Fans scoffed a bit, but A Blessing and a Curse sold better than any Truckers record had before it.

 

Isbell left the group after A Blessing and a Curse to pursue a solo career. Longtime bassist Shonna Tucker began writing songs around the same time, contributing a few numbers to 2008's Brighter Than Creation's Dark, a sedate, primarily acoustic affair that hearkened back to the straight-forward country of the Truckers' early years. Brighter than Creation's Dark scored the band the best sales and chart performance of its career. With a steadily expanding profile and preternaturally talented stable of songwriters in the ranks, that was to be expected. ~Craig Jenkins


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