Sunday, March 20, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS - IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE!
Celebrating 20 years of the Truckers existence and 30 years of playing in bands together, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley and the current, very stable line-up of the group hit their favourite venue for this live, 3-CD album. And they really did pull out all the stops for it. Recorded over 3 nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco, the band worked up a special multi-night selection that covered all eras of their existence, and even some early cuts from Hood and Cooley's previous band. They even splurged on some horns for the occasion,
With three-plus hours of music, the band has plenty of time to show off what they do best, which is make big story-songs with lots and lots of guitar. Hood especially writes big tales of the south, mostly character-driven. There are family tales, such as one about his grandfather, narrated at the start to explain, then developed into Box of Spiders. Taking these small, proud characters, he builds them up into stars no less important than Springsteen's parents and cousins and Jersey pals. He also explores the modern South with equal pride in working-class heroes zeroes.
There are moments of modern mythology, like the song Ronnie and Neil, which looks at the story of Neil Young writing Southern Man and Alabama, Ronnie Van Zandt answering with Sweet Home Alabama, and how the musicians became good friends. We go to Muscle Shoals to watch Aretha Franklin record, and get to know some other friends in Girls Who Smoke. All these big narratives happen in a wash of fuzzy chords and feedback, a thick sound that is always supercharged. Drive-By Truckers have always been at their very best live, and this is their very best. The CD version is very affordable at $25.00, or you can also splurge for a 5-LP box going for around $88 (not bad at all), or a 2-LP set edited from this called This Weekend's The Night, at $32 (all prices the current listings from amazon.ca).