Sunday, January 3, 2010

BEST OF THE 00s: THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS (and a thank you to Outlaw Country)

I remember listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd years ago, and wondering if southern rock would ever rise again. Well, there may never be a southern rock band (or any rock band) as big as Skynyrd ever again. But I have to think that the late, great Ronnie Van Zant is smiling somewhere when he hears The Drive-By Truckers.

They are not "the next Lynyrd Skynyrd" any more than anyone else is "the next Bob Dylan" or "the next Jimi Hendrix" or... well, you get the idea. But they are a great rock band from the south, who sings about being from the south. One of the crimes of so-called "classic rock" radio is that they don't play groups like this. I'm not sure where else they fit: I'm sure country music folks (who claim to be Skynyrd fans) don't like them, they aren't "alternative rock," or hard rock and they sure as hell ain't what passes for "indie rock." So, thank goodness for Outlaw Country, who plays them often. It's thanks to that channel (executive produced by Little Steven Van Zandt) that I became aware of the band, and I've been slowly making my way through their catalog.

The band have two great singer/songwriter/guitarists in Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley (and they used to have three, but Jason Isbell left in 2007, and now is a solo artist) .  They tell great stories about what it is like to be southern, and they tell it with pride but not without self-awareness. To use their lyric, "the duality of the southern thing." They got their start in the '90s, but most of thier music has been released in the '00s, and I would recommend starting off with their 2001 classic The Southern Rock Opera.

By the way, they've not just a great band, they're a great backing band.  They played on the great Bettye LaVette's 2007 album Scene Of The Crime and also on Booker T.'s album from last year, Potato Hole.

It's hard to find new(ish) bands to really believe in these days, and I probably don't help matters much by concentrating on so many "legacy" groups. But take my word for it, if you check these guys out, you won't regret it. And I'm grateful for Outlaw Country for turning me on to them.

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