Review : Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do
PitchforkOn their first two albums (1998's Gangstabilly and 1999's Pizza Deliverance), the Drive-By Truckers were supreme redneck jokesters, specializing in scabrous white-trash vignettes owing more to Southern Gothic fiction (Flannery O'Connor, Barry Hannah) than any sub-Mason-Dixon stand-up hacks. As the band matured and its de facto frontman Patterson Hood started writing songs that were weightier and more universal in sentiment, however, its more darkly off-kilter early work came to be generally viewed as juvenilia, the dicking around these guys did before they grew up into real artists. That would be a mistake, because songs like "18 Wheels of Love", "Bulldozers and Dirt", and "Zoloft" were wickedly clever and deeply revealing slices of Southern life that hold relatable truths for all listeners regardless of region. That said, it's a refreshing surprise that the group's latest album, The Big To-Do, finds Hood reconnecting with the macabre, with grim twists and booze-fueled mayhem, and with the dark corners of the American psyche.
The album begins morbidly with "Daddy Learned to Fly", its whining riff propelling the first-person reflections of a young boy whose father has died. It's a colorful kind of morbidity, however, as we learn the boy has been eased into an acceptance of loss by the creative lie that his father is perpetually flying the friendly skies. Weighing the most deadly serious facts of life against a highly skewed sense of irreverence has always been one of DBT's greatest feats, and it's a balancing act the group maintains throughout the album's raucous first half-- on the booze-fueled bottoming-out of "Fourth Night of My Drinking", the small-town sex scandal of the portentously delivered "The Wig He Made Her Wear", and the nasty little slice of backwater intrigue called "Drag the Lake Charlie"....full text
BbcFormed in Athens, Georgia in 1996, Drive-By Truckers have spent the last 14 years introducing the ramshackle, distorted aesthetic of 90s grunge to a vintage Southern rock template. Like a cross between Pearl Jam and Creedence, the band have consistently avoided sinking into the anonymous jam-band swamp with tight songcraft and appealingly lurid storytelling, passionately delivered by principal songwriters Patterson Hood, Shonna Tucker and Mike Cooley.
The Truckers’ main challenge has always been to avoid spreading themselves too thinly, to make a focused impact rather than diluting their prodigious talent pool with endless digression. At their finest, as they were on 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, the band create a majestic wall of muscular riffs and emotionally direct lyricism exploring the Jekyll and Hyde duality of the Southern spirit.
The first four tracks of new album The Big To-Do are a solid continuation of the Truckers’ recent winning streak. Opener Daddy Learned to Fly kicks the album off with a thick riff and a sparkling, Springsteen-worthy chorus. Birthday Boy, an unglamorous glimpse at the daily grind of a cash-strapped exotic dancer, shows a Petty-esque flair for emotive, galloping songwriting that showcases the cinematic scope of the Drive-By Truckers when firing on all cylinders....full text
Guardian.coFor 12 years and nine albums now, these Alabama-born, Georgia-based southern rockers have been putting storytelling to the fore, often focusing on the history and mythology of the southern states – they even once made a concept album about Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Big To-Do is a similarly narrative-heavy record, its three-guitar alt-country swell propping up a cast of variously true-life and fictional characters and the (mostly) bad things they do, or have done to them. Herein we hear of inveterate drinkers, bodies in lakes, put-upon prostitutes, gasps in the courtroom and dead-end jobs; these are tales skilfully, if traditionally, told, and the fact of Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Shonna Tucker taking turns on lead vocals adds greatly to that sense of multiple narrative voices. Musically, the DBTs manage a decent range – from big, squalling rockers to teary, lap-steel balladry – albeit without throwing any great surprises. Same old story, to some extent, but one worth hearing again....full text
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