Friday, September 4, 2009

Drive By Trucker: The Fine Print

The Drive By Truckers are without question my favorite band working today. A band I love so much that, theirs is the best concert I’ve ever seen, despite the fact that I almost died on the way to the show (True Story!).

Patterson Hood’s pain soaked vocals, Mike Cooley’s simultaneously virtuosic and laid back style (And former bandmate/other genius Jason Isbell), Shoshanna Tucker’s soul come together as a perfect storm, and create a mix of Rock, Country, Roots, and Blues that sound unlike anything out on the scene today.

“The Fine Print”, is a collection of “rarities and oddities” and while it’s not as satisfying as getting a new album, but for the dedicated fan is a real treasure trove.

About half of the album is covers, old classics that DBT manages to approach from a completely different angle then expected. Their take on Tom Petty’s “Rebels” for example. Takes Petty’s most raucous, shit kicking song; the type of song you play as you burn down your ex-wifes house before tooling down country roads in your GTO with the lights off, and turns it into a proudly bruised and beaten dirge. Finding the wounded pride and sadness of the song’s titular perpetual loser rather then celebrating his defiance. Their take on Zevon’s Hick Minstrel song “Play It All Night Long” transforms Zevon’s virtually whiteface performance into something authentic. When Zevon sang “There ain’t much to country living but sweat piss jizz and blood” during his tribute to incest, burculousis, Post Traumatic stress, and alcoholism, he was being ghoulishly provocative. Hood reclaims it, doing what he does best, making the stereotypes real. And it slips in an extra cover of “Ain’t That Pretty At All”, just to sweeten the deal. The band takes on “Like A Rolling Stone” for it’s final track, turning what in any other band’s hands would be a reverant cover to one of rock’s greatest songs, into a boozy bar band riff. It’s the first time I’ve been able to hear “Like A Rolling Stone” as a song, and a good one too, rather then a cultural touchstone in awhile.

The rest of the songs are more of a mixed bag. The alternate takes of DBT classics “Goode’s Field Road” and “Uncle Frank” are illuminating but inconsequential. The new tracks are a mixed bag. TVA is a great DBT epic, and it’s nice to get one last Jason Isbell masterpiece now that he’s gone. “The Great Car Dealer War” was cut from “The Dirty South”, one of my favorite albums, and it fits right in. It’s a scorching piece of small town nastiness on an epic scale. The only track on here that’s kind of a bum one is “Mrs. Claus’ Kimono” perhaps the least sentimental Christmas song ever recorded. It’s one of Patterson Hood’s beloved novelty songs, which are the kind of things that your uncle plays after he’s had a few too many drinks at a family function, and as far as those go it’s better then “The President’s Penis Is Missing” but not as good as “The Night GG Allen Came To Town”

As good as “The Fine Print” is, (and if you can’t tell by now it’s very very good) it can’t help but feel a bit inconsequential, it just whet’s the appetite for whatever comes next.

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