Keep on truckin' 

Drive-By Truckers pretty up the Dirty South

click to enlarge Souped up and ready to go: Drive-By Truckers.
  • Souped up and ready to go: Drive-By Truckers.

While some songwriters wouldn't want to yield parts of their "turf" to other writers, Patterson Hood says he's more than happy to share the songwriting load with his fellow Drive-By Truckers.

"Honestly, to me, my favorite songs are the other guys' songs," he says. "Not knocking mine, because I'm proud of a lot of what I do, and I certainly enjoy doing it and all of that, but their songs are the ones that, end of the day I go, 'Goddamn.' So for me, it's kind of an honor and a privilege to get to be one of the writers."

The prodigious output of Hood, guitarist/singer Mike Cooley and guitarist/singer Jason Isbell has allowed the Drive-By Truckers to have large chunks of both 2003's Decoration Day and their current disc, The Dirty South, recorded months before the band finished touring behind its previous albums.

In the case of The Dirty South, however, the band members ended up giving a facelift to what they thought had been a largely finished disc.

After a short break from touring in 2003, the group, which also includes drummer Brad Morgan and new bassist Shonna Tucker (who replaced longtime member Earl Hicks), returned to The Dirty South project in January 2004. They booked time at the legendary FAME Recording Studio (site of sessions with Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge, to name a few) in their hometown of Muscle Shoals, Ala., to put a few finishing touches on the album.

Instead, Hood, Cooley and Isbell each showed up with several new songs. The band started recording, and in the end, replaced seven tracks from the first version with nine new ones. The new material, Hood says, took The Dirty South in a different direction.

"Several of the songs we ended up pulling at the last minute to make room for new ones were probably a little less full-on rock than the new ones," he explains.

The band, whose sound mixes plenty of bluesy Southern rock with a strong melodic sensibility, especially shines on the hard-hitting tracks such as "Where The Devil Don't Stay," "Puttin' People on the Moon," "The Buford Stick" and "Lookout Mountain."

The Dirty South also continues the Truckers' string of thematically linked albums.

Southern Rock Opera examines what it means to be from the South, funneled through a story line that touches on the rise and tragic end of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd and what that band meant to Southern rock fans.

Decoration Day offers tales of personal upheaval that seem to reflect the strains of the group at the time, including the wear and tear of nonstop touring, and breakups of two members' marriages.

The Dirty South doesn't seem as personal, but its songs, many of which depict desperate circumstances that lead people into lives of crime or other misadventures, often are just as evocative and disturbing.

Hood says he actually didn't realize The Dirty South was so thematically unified until after it was finished.

"I think none of us really wanted to do a concept record or anything," Hood says. "I don't think we really wanted to when we did Decoration Day, for that matter, having done Southern Rock Opera. And yet to me, both of these two records since then have been probably a little tighter conceptually than the Rock Opera itself, which I guess is just one of those funny ironies."

-- Alan Sculley


Drive-By Truckers with Centro-Matic

Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder

Thursday, Dec. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 31, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $22.50 on Dec. 29, 30; $50.00 on Dec. 31. 21-plus. Call 303/443-3399 or visit foxtheatre.com for more.


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