On American Band, Drive-By Truckers delves into the country’s toxic mix of violence and racism


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Few task forces embrace their southern heritage as proudly as Georgia’s Drive-By Truckers, which makes their decision to cross the country’s political divide all the more astonishing. The band intentionally dropped their strong new album American group (ATO) at the end of September, as the presidential election neared the peak of its eventful run, and aside from meaty guitar chords, raw soul and raucous attack, there is nothing for please supporters of our new president. In press materials, founding member Mike Cooley said, “I wanted this to be an album without scruples about it, versus a political album. I wanted to piss off the assholes. At the outset, Cooley tells the story of Texan Harlon Carter, a former NRA chief who, at 17, was convicted of murdering a Mexican boy, Ramon Casiano, in Laredo, eventually deployed to examine the toxic mix of violence and racism that has been spreading across the country: “Men whose trigger pulls their fingers / Men who would rather fight than win / United in a revolution / As in the mind and as in the skin. Cooley’s “Ever South” offers a more complicated indictment, digging deep-rooted racism in the south from the perspective of white ethnicities – themselves once vilified. Patterson Hood’s plaintive “Guns of Umpqua” paints an equally unsettling portrait of America, swinging between bucolic images of rural Oregon and the deadly shootout in a classroom at Umpqua Community College in October 2015. Pulling off this kind of album isn’t easy, but the rough melodies and stomping rhythms only enhance the righteous messages that transcend particular moments in American history, even though they unmistakably stem from the present. v

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