Drive-By Truckers: review of the American group


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Many YouTube commenters on the Drive-By Truckers’ lyric video for “What It Means” seem offended by the overt politics of the song, which comes from the band’s new album. With references to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and other young black men killed largely because they were young black men, the tune is wholeheartedly sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement – uncomfortably, it seems. , for some listeners, who accuse the group of “white guilt”, “clearance sale” and, the most serious of liberal panties, political correctness.

Yet the Drive-By Truckers have always had a political streak, and it never swung to the right. As far as Pizza delivery in 1999, singer Patterson Hood mocked the impeachment proceeding against Bill Clinton on “The President’s Penis Is Missing.” Their release in 2001 Southern rock opera was an examination of the duration of a double album of Southern attitudes towards race, politics, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while many songs on later versions have invariably pushed authority figures or sided with the poor who are too aware that equality and justice are luxuries that many people cannot afford. It is true, however, that American group is the most timely social criticism of the Truckers, just six weeks before the presidential election.

“I wanted this to be an unscrupulous political album, to the face,” singer and guitarist Mike Cooley said in the album’s press notes. “I wanted to piss off the assholes.”

There is plenty of bait in these 11 songs, which are alternately sharp and sad. With an acoustic guitar accompanied by pedal steel and Hood’s plaintive voice, “What It Means” takes a moderate approach to the subject of African Americans killed at the hands of the police (or, in Martin’s case, a police officer in grass). “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn” is the muscular backhand, full of rumbling, intertwining guitars that have become something of a Truckers signature over the years. Hood mostly handles the despondent tunes, singing from the perspective of a military veteran injured as a civilian by an act of domestic terrorism on the brooding “Guns of Umpqua”, sighing in the dark over a sweet piano line on ” When the Sun Don ‘t Shine “and analyzing her own struggles with depression on” Baggage “, written after the suicide of Robin Williams.

Cooley contributes the hardest numbers on American group, starting with the opener “Ramon Casiano”. On sturdy guitars, Cooley tells the true, and largely ignored, story of a confrontation between two teenage boys in Texas that ended in one shooting and killing the other. The shooter was Harlon Carter, who went on to work for the US Border Patrol and, as president of the National Rifle Association 1977-85, transformed the NRA from a sports organization into an absolutist gun rights group in fire. “He was made up of a leader / Of a certain type of man / Who needs to feel the world against them,” Cooley sings in his laconic accent, before noting that the kind of man he is talking about tends to be “united in a revolution / With like in mind and like in the skin. He is just as acerbic on” Kinky Hypocrite “, a roadhouse rocker who spits” discreet ring masters and who make the headlines “eager to separate fools from their money.

In other words, American group isn’t a shy album, and what you think of its barbed wire perspective probably depends on your political orientation. As a political statement, this is by far the most emphatic work of the Truckers. As a collection of songs, it’s probably less effective than Southern rock opera Where Dirty south, albums that made points more subtle, so similar, in a more thematic and universal way. The songs on American group, for the most part, are well-constructed and fairly catchy tracks that don’t quite rise to number one in the band’s deep and impressive catalog. That said, the more surreal this electoral cycle gets – and especially after the breathtaking spectacle of this week’s presidential debate – they start to feel more and more essential.

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