We saved some of the best for last in 2006, as our New Year’s plans brought us to Atlanta for Drive-By Truckers on 12/30 at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points and then Susan Tedeschi co-headlining with her husband Derek Trucks on 12/31 at the beautiful Fox Theater on Peachtree NE in Midtown.
photo courtesy of Daniel Peiken
Susan and Derek kicked butt last night and I could go on here about how tremendous they are, but I’ve seen them both perform several times, whereas the DBT show was my first. So my mind is on the band of rogues from northwest Alabama.
I grew up on a band that went tit for tat throughout their performance…Jerry/Bobby, Jerry/Bobby, and on a good night they’d throw in a song from Phil. Drive-By Truckers complicate the math considerably by having not two but three singer-songwriter frontmen–Mike Cooley on stage left, Patterson Hood in the center and Jason Isbell holding down stage right. The men take turns moving the song selection down the line and back as if the setlist was taped not to the floor but floating on an invisible short-order wire.
The band swigs from a top shelf bottle throughout their performance. Fittingly, that sweet caramel taste of bourbon is palpable in the band’s music. Like Lucero and Widespread Panic, their sound is whiskey soaked. At the same time, there’s a lucidity about it and a high-mindedness. Yes, their songs are often painful renderings about poverty, loss and violation. But in the hands of artists with skills like Drive-By Truckers these topics transcend the ordinary and become poetry.
There’s also a fearlessness to the band’s approach, a willingness to lurk in the darkness that some critics might label Southern Gothic. Take “Aftermath USA” off the latest release Blessing and A Curse. The subject of the song is frightening as hell, like something from a Harry Crews novel. Yet, when listening to the song you’re not scared, you’re entranced.