Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Drive-By Truckers - Live from Austin TX

Drive-By Truckers
Live From Austin TX (DVD/CD)
New West Records

If you’re partial to analogies, let’s say the Drive-By Truckers’ 2009 compilation CD The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities And Rarities 2003-2008) was a super-8 home movie and the band members are your kids. And over the course of that record, you can watch them grow. That makes this dual DVD/CD live release a snapshot in 4/4 time, a musical Polaroid of a band touring behind an extremely strong record (Brighter Than Creations Dark) with a ton of great new songs. Shaking off the lineup changes that saw guitarist and songwriter Jason Isbell leave, keyboardist Spooner Oldham step in on The Dirt Underneath tour, the addition of Jay Gonzales on keys and a greater role for sideman John Neff, the band shows strength and resolve. The core remains the same, with Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley providing the vocals, guitars and stories, while Brad Morgan on drums and Shonna Tucker on bass have coalesced into a formidable rhythm section.

Appearing on Austin City Limits as a first timer, evidently the band wanted to showcase their songwriting talent as much as their reputation as a raucous rock band that slings sweat with the best of them, and as such we are treated to a fined honed set of music that is as solid as Morgan’s backbeat and as soaring as one of Neff’s pedal steel solos.

The same thirteen songs are on both DVD and CD, although the some of the stories and between-song banter are cut from the audio disc. The most compelling story is an updated tale of Hood’s momma Jan and her trucker husband, Chester, “Eighteen Wheels of Love,” first heard on the band’s 2002 live release, Alabama Ass Whuppin’. Patterson knows how to tell a story and this one is worth the price of the disc all by it’s own self. Luckily, the rest of the record is just as good. The Truckers like their alt-country and rock with a splash of soul and use this base to spin their tales of the down and out, dispossessed and dispirited with both passion and compassion. Mike Cooley’s countrified tunes “Perfect Timing,” “A Ghost To Most” and the acoustic, heartbreaking “Space City” sit well alongside his rockers “Marry Me,” the Stones-ish “3 Dimes Down” and “Zip City,” while Hood’s tales of life in the ragged Southern trenches “Puttin’ People On The Moon,” “Heathens” and “The Righteous Path” are balanced by celebratory “The Living Bubba” and “Let There Be Rock.” Shonna steps up to the mic with her lush “I’m Sorry Huston.”

The audio and video quality on both discs is stellar, befitting the performances. If you’re a fan of the Drive-By Truckers, this is what you’ll want to pull out when someone asks you about the band. If you’re not a fan, you will be after this one.

Curtis Lynch
Playgrounds Magazine March 2010

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