The Drive-By Truckers – Rocking tall
The Drive-By Truckers don’t much care to have their picture made. It’s not the camera they object to, for few musicians are immune to the imagined comforts of fame. It’s just that they don’t like to be told where to stand, what to wear, or when to put down their beer. And they don’t pose.
Pretty much, they just don’t like to be told.
Still, theirs is not the petulance often mistaken for an entitlement of stardom; they’re nice enough guys, no matter what they say. And barely famous. Instead, this intransigence is the secret of their survival and, yes, of their success. There aren’t a whole lot of people these five guys listen to who aren’t in the band. Even then, it’s a fight.
A long, hard fight. They’re old for van warriors, all but Jason Isbell, the new guy, who’s barely dry. By now any sensible man would have quit and found something to do besides sleep in strange beds and stand in the smoke and chase the phantom dreams of rock. Except that art is not a sensible enterprise.
And so instead of doing what they’ve been told, the Drive-By Truckers have laboriously fashioned themselves into a potent and important band, even though the whole notion of a rock band itself now seems anachronistic. A classic, rocking band, featuring three first-rate and highly competitive songwriters. And they did it their way, in the finest punk rock tradition.
Their fourth album appeared two years ago, the double-disc Southern Rock Opera, initially released on their own Soul Dump imprint. As imperfect as it was audacious, it received such notices that, a year later, Lost Highway picked up the record (it clocked in at #22 on the prestigious Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll for 2002). Early this spring, Lost Highway turned around and sold the Truckers’ follow-up back to the band’s management. So it was that Decoration Day, their fifth and finest album, came to be released June 17 on New West Records.
This is an excerpt of the article which appeared in The Best of No Depression: Writing About American Music, which features 25 of the finest articles from the magazines back issues, and was published in 2005 by University of Texas Press to help celebrate the magazines 10th anniversary. Due to our agreement with UT Press we are unable to include this article in our online archive.
The Best of No Depression is the only place you can find these articles other than our back issues. Visit the No Depression store to buy your copy for only $10.
The 300-page volume includes co-editor Grant Aldens award-winning 2001 feature on Billy Joe Shaver, co-editor Peter Blackstocks 1998 Artist of the Decade piece on Alejandro Escovedo, senior editor Bill Friskics-Warrens 2002 cover story on Johnny Cash, contributing editor Paul Cantins deep exploration of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco; and many other high points from our print heyday.
Table of contents for The Best of No Depression:
Preface, by Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock
Los Lobos, by Geoffrey Himes
Alejandro Escovedo, by Peter Blackstock
Jon Dee Graham, by Peter Blackstock
Billy Joe Shaver, by Grant Alden
Ray Wylie Hubbard, by John T. Davis
Flatlanders, by Don McLeese
Ray Price, by David Cantwell
Johnny Gimble, by Bill C. Malone
Johnny Cash, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Rosanne Cash, by Lloyd Sachs
Lucinda Williams, by Silas House
Buddy & Julie Miller, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kasey Chambers, by Geoffrey Himes
Loretta Lynn, by Barry Mazor
Patty Loveless, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kieran Kane, by Peter Cooper
Paul Burch, by Jim Ridley
Hazel Dickens, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Gillian Welch, by Grant Alden
Ryan Adams, by David Menconi
Jay Farrar, by Peter Blackstock
Jayhawks, by Erik Flannigan
Wilco, by Paul Cantin
Drive-By Truckers, by Grant Alden
Iron & Wine, by William Bowers