The Drive By Truckers are in a dangerous spot. They’re coming off of two critically praised albums, somewhat non-stop touring and the most poisonous dart of them all, industry buzz. There’s a lot riding on their new record The Dirty South and after you strip away all the whispers and expectations what’s left is a monument of modern southern rock and proof positive that this band matters.
“Where the Devil Don’t Stay” opens the album with a slow stomp on the bass drum sounding like a prelude to a barroom dustup. The guitars ring like funeral bells and before the 20-second mark Daddy’s playing poker in the woods. It doesn’t take long to see why the Truckers have become the standard of modern Southern rock which all others are measured against. To put it simply, they mean what they say and tell the truth.
It’s easy for a band to take stake in where they call home and try to drum up some local pride and mystique from outsiders to create an image. So what’s different about this band? The Drive By Truckers aren’t writing “Sweet Home Alabama” over and over again, they’re not afraid to paint an ugly picture and love it all the same. “Puttin’ People on the Moon” (mp3) deals with outlaws turned Wal-Mart employees and cancer riddled wives with no health insurance in a world where space exploration seems more important to the folks in charge.
They love their legends but moreso the real stories behind them, and there’s always another side of the story that hasn’t been told by Disney or Hollywood. Tall tales are told without sugary esthetics (“The Day John Henry Died”), heroes are sung about without blind admiration (“Carl Perkins’ Cadillac”), and southern history is rewritten from the perspective of the bad guy (“The Boys From Alabama”).
The album flows from bluesy stomps to jangley country pop to mournful shuffles. The hard driving three-guitar frontline gives the faster songs a depth and lushness not often found in this era of two-piece bands and power trios. The slower numbers are allowed to creep in and curl up with just a room mike on an acoustic guitar and a well placed bass drum.
Whether it’s tearing up or turning down The Dirty South remains solid with well oiled, home grown musicianship and stories told with an accent you can’t fake. The Drive By Truckers have delivered another gem of Southern culture and I have faith that they’ll do it again.
Mp3s available at their site.