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Drive-By Truckers


Josh Hurst
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I enjoyed Decoration Day and look forward to hearing Blessing. The thing I appreciate about Patterson Hood and the Truckers-- in contrast to some of the pretentious South-as-schtick tendencies of Kings of Leon or even My Morning Jacket-- is their unaffected, garage band muscle. These guys actually know how to kick out the jams.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I enjoyed Decoration Day and look forward to hearing Blessing. The thing I appreciate about Patterson Hood and the Truckers-- in contrast to some of the pretentious South-as-schtick tendencies of Kings of Leon or even My Morning Jacket-- is their unaffected, garage band muscle. These guys actually know how to kick out the jams.

Interesting. What you see as "unaffected" I see as heavily stylized. Although they're not as cartoonish as, say, Southern Culture on the Skids, I see Southern stereotypes galore in the DBT's music, and their entitre catalogue could be re-christened "Adventures of Redneck Trailer Trash, Vols. 1 - 7." Representative song titles: "The Boys from Alabama," "The Buford Stick," "Too Much Sex (And Not Enough Jesus)," "The Living Bubba," and "Buttholeville." I think they're a first-rate rock 'n roll band, and I'm willing to overlook the stereotypes (I give them credit for at least being non-racist rednecks) because of the thrilling wall of sound they can generate. They have three distinctive songwriters, three great guitarists, and a whole lot of attitude. But I do think they're certainly playing in to the good ol' boy shtick. Interestingly, the latest album, A Blessing and a Curse, downplays the stereotypes (a good thing, IMO), but loses the edge through the polite production. I'm not sure it's a great tradeoff, but I do welcome the move away from gap-toothed moonshiner rock.

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I see Southern stereotypes galore in the DBT's music
It's difficult to portray anything distinctly southern without veering into stereotypes. I think they do a good job and I don't smell anything insincere or plastic in their songs.

BTW... AOL is streaming the new album this week. I'm about half way thru it now and its fair. I'll let it run in the background till noon and see if anything sticks.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I see Southern stereotypes galore in the DBT's music
It's difficult to portray anything distinctly southern without veering into stereotypes. I think they do a good job and I don't smell anything insincere or plastic in their songs.

BTW... AOL is streaming the new album this week. I'm about half way thru it now and its fair. I'll let it run in the background till noon and see if anything sticks.

The problem is that I'm not sure that the phrase "distinctly southern" really has any meaning. Flannery O'Connor is distinctly southern. So is Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote, John Kennedy Toole, Harper Lee. I realize that I'm comparing novelists to songwriters, but surely there's more to "the south" than NASCAR and the lost glory of R.E. Lee and Pickett's Charge and swigging Jack Daniels on Friday nights.

I guess I do catch whiffs of the insincere and plastic in many of the DBT's songs. Patterson Hood's dad played in the great Muscle Shoals rhythm section, and recorded with Aretha, Otis, etc. I just can't fathom that he grew up in a world circumscribed by grinding poverty and superstition, where the primary goal in life was to escape the tedium of the cotton fields through strong drink. I think Patterson Hood is working within a well-defined myth. But I don't believe it, any more than I believe that Atlanta is filled with redneck crackers or that Austin is filled with guys in cowboy hats.

I do think it's possible to write songs about the American south in non-stereotypical ways. I think Pierce Pettis does that. I think Lucinda Williams does that, and Kate Campbell, and Claire Holley. But I don't think Patterson Hood does it. I would like to think that good ol' boys exist more in the minds of those who want to play off of a classic myth than in reality. And I'm probably less tolerant of it because I think it's a myth whose time has come to go away, much like the mythical rebel flags on the back of the mythical pickup trucks. Some things in the past aren't worth holding on to. So as much as I like the DBT's music, and I do, I wish they'd abandon the posturing. I'd like them a whole lot better if they were just guys, and not amped up Southern Guys.

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I recently read a short story by Zora Neal Hurston in which she essentially embraces every African American stereotype in the book, creating the most exaggeratedly cookie-cutter characters you can imagine, then turning it all on its side be revealing the complex emotional lives that these characters lead. I kinda feel like the Truckers do the same thing with their "stereotypes" of Southerners-- sure, the tropes and trappings are all there, but there's so much dignity and complexity to their characters that it's difficult for me to believe that they're just playing into cliches.

I like that review, solishu, because it gets at that same issue.

And, for what its worth, I say this as a lifelong Southerner.

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I kinda feel like the Truckers do the same thing with their "stereotypes" of Southerners-- sure, the tropes and trappings are all there, but there's so much dignity and complexity to their characters that it's difficult for me to believe that they're just playing into cliches.
Well put, Josh. I couldnt agree more.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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