‘American Group’, Drive-By Truckers: NPR

Music critic Tom Moon reviews the latest release from Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers.



AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Rock band Drive-By Truckers have been making music for 20 years now, and for most of that time the band, originally from Athens, Georgia, has explored a sense of Southern identity. This happened on albums like “The Dirty South” and “Southern Rock Opera”.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “THE SOUTH THING”)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) It’s not about my gun, it’s not about my boots, it’s not about northern roads, it’s not about my southern roots.

CORNISH: Drive-By Truckers have just released their 11th album. It’s called “American Band“. Critic Tom Moon listened. He says the band is doing a lot more in this new album than looking beyond the South.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “WHAT IT MEANS”)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (singing) He was running down the street when they shot him. ‘Bout the only thing agreed was that he wouldn’t come back.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Drive-By Truckers is notorious for being a little obnoxious. With this set of sharp and topical songs, they expand this emotional range. In this one about the police killing young African American men, they appear both pissed off and thoughtful.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “WHAT IT MEANS”)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) And when they turned it over, they were surprised there wasn’t a gun. I mean he must have done something else why would he run away? And they’ll spin it for anchors on TV screens. We can shrug our shoulders and let it be without wondering what that means. What is that…

MOON: The band has two songwriters, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. They write independently. And when they started talking about that record, they discovered that they were both directly addressing issues looming over the presidential campaign — race, income inequality, the treatment of veterans, immigration and armed violence.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF SONG, “GUNS OF UMPQUA”)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) Now I’m losing parts in a manic mode to barricade doors. As my heartbeat surges with adrenaline and nerves, I feel like I’ve been here before. I came back from attacking hell in a distant bloody war only to look down on my home.

MOON: There is little ambiguity in these songs. They are blunt in the tradition of Neil Young. And conviction goes beyond messages. Everything is delivered with searing intensity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SURREND UNDER PROTEST”)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) Does the color really matter on the face you blame for the failure, on the shame of the lost cause of the battle if the victims and the aggressors stay for each other and that the instigators never fight against themselves?

MOON: Patterson Hood says he doesn’t like protest songs. But he learned from his father, who played bass with The Staple Singers during that group’s heyday, how music can make people think and ultimately become a catalyst for change. These tight, well-timed songs yearn for that kind of transformation.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “KINKY HYPOCRITES”)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) We fought our losing battles and stuck to our lanes. And we talk about how we left behind our best days.

CORNISH: The latest from Drive-By Truckers is called “American Band“. Our critic is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “KINKY HYPOCRITES”)

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) We bumped into the future of our South, we bumped into the future of our South.

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