Drive-By Truckers – They crawled from the South
Hot New Country stinks, but you can’t smell it. Good country songs should effect at least three-fifths of your senses. Take, for example, the Drive-By Truckers song “Bulldozers And Dirt”: “Can’t get the red stains off of my socks/Can’t get ya out of my mind.” Your nose goes raw with the cold smell of red clay and heartbreak.
The Athens, Georgia, band released their debut album, Gangstabilly, this spring on Soul Dump Records, a label run by Patterson Hood, the band’s vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter. Gangstabilly lets Hood, guitarist Mike Cooley, bassist Adam Howell, drummer Matt Lane and steel guitarist John “Sho-Nuff” Neff mess with all your senses on 11 songs about Steve McQueen, women running off with truckers and devil-worshipping Republicans.
“Bulldozers And Dirt” is actually not on the album; it was released as a single, along with “Nine Bullets”, late last year. That recording marked the coming together of Hood’s “dream team,” some of whom he met through his job as soundman at the High Hat, a longtime fixture on the Athens scene. Minus mandolin player Barry Sell, the five Truckers went into a local studio to record Gangstabilly, but not before paying their dues to play the blues: They helped build the studio in exchange for studio time. “I was working 80 hours a week,” Hood says. “It was still a lot of fun. It beat having some asshole record executive criticizing how much I cuss.”
Their labor was not in vain, as the resulting album is a testament to the Drive-By Truckers’ charm. Ragged-but-right raw music combines with Hood’s gritty, soulful vocals on songs such as “The Living Bubba”, a tribute to Gregory Dean Smalley, the founder of Atlanta’s Bubbapalooza festival and a member of the Diggers who fell victim to AIDS. “In his last months when he was dying, he still played and played,” Hood says. “He hardly stopped, played his ass off.”
The soul in Hood’s voice and music comes as no surprise when you take into account that he was brought up in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where his father, a studio musician at the famed Muscle Shoals Studio, worked with the likes of Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. David Hood still works there, one of the holdouts who didn’t escape north to the fertile land of Nashville. “I come by being stubborn naturally,” his son explains.
Hood and the Truckers live for their weekend gigs up and down the Southeast, cultivating a following in their home state and the Carolinas and Virginia. This summer they plan to play some Midwest dates and finish up a second album for release by the end of the year. “The next album goes together with Gangstabilly,” Hood says. “It tells the rest of the story.” It’ll likely be a story worth hearing — and feeling, tasting, seeing and smelling.