Drive-By Truckers – Introductory Page

Drive-By Truckers 



Let’s be real here, folks. I wrote my senior thesis on this band, so that means one of several things for those of you out there who aren’t already Truckers fans. One, I might be able to introduce you for the first time to a band that, due largely to the circumstance of when and where they’re from, will likely never attain their rightful place in rock history as one of the Great American Rock Bands. Two, I might be able to tell you some cool stuff that might change your mind about a band you had previously written off cause of their accents, or cause you heard they were just a cheap Skynyrd knockoff, or some other cosmetic reason. The third, and most personally worrisome possibility, is that you’ll see these reviews as an exercise in cluelessly slobbering all over the big, veiny cock of a totally overrated, behind-the-times, idiotic redneck band that sucks. If that image wasn’t graphic enough for you, you should totally checkout the last line of my review of Raw Power. You’ll love it.

Honestly, I don’t give a fuck if someone thinks I have bad taste, cause I do – I will always love “Pop” by ‘Nsync, and you can’t stop me. And I certainly don’t write reviews with the intention of getting people to agree with me. But with a band that I feel as emotionally connected to as DBT, when you call them shit, you might as well be calling my mother a cunt. Of course, I recognize that DBT, like any band, no matter how great, is not for everyone, just as clearly as I recognize that it is inevitable that out of six billion people in the world, not all of them are going to find my mother charming. So it goes. But that fact that I feel I have to defend DBT like they’re family – that right there tells you a lot about what is so special about this band, what sets them apart, at least for me, as arguably the most singularly powerful storytelling band in rock history.

It sure wouldn’t have appeared to an impartial observer, however, that DBT were destined for any kind of success, much less greatness, until more than 15 years after its principle architects, guitarists/singers/songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, first began playing music together. Indeed, DBT’s origins can be traced back to the mid-80s, when a band seemingly destined for futility called Adam’s House Cat roamed the shithole bars of Birmingham, Alabama. Its primary contributors were Cooley, a local guitar slinger, and Hood, the progeny of popular music royalty David Hood, bassist with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (they played on a whole bunch of your favorite soul and rock hits from the 60s and 70s. Look ‘em up). They played loud and angry and didn’t make any friends in what was hardly the friendliest, most happening music scene in the country at the time (or ever… frankly “Birmingham” and “cultural hotspot” are hardly synonymous). They broke up after six years without scoring so much as a non-regional gig, despite getting named on a national publication’s “best unsigned bands” list and recording a damn fine (still unreleased) album in 1990 called Town Burned Down. That time around, it wasn’t to be.

But another half decade and a relocation to the more artist-friendly confines of Athens, Georgia saw Hood and Cooley reuniting for a more fruitful endeavor. Actually, Drive-By Truckers began in 1996 as a little more than a jam session between buddies whom Hood lured to his house with the promise of free pizza and beer, which of course nobody in their right mind would pass up willingly. But over time, the name of DBT came to represent much more – namely, one of the most passionate, hardworking, and, as far as making multiple great records goes, accomplished bands in rock today.

Oh sure, in the early days, they appeared to be little more than a particularly hillbilly-friendly offshoot of the late-90s alt-country boom. But early classics like “The Living Bubba” and “Bulldozers And Dirt” hinted at a much greater depth, which ultimately revealed itself in full glory on the 2001 breakthrough Southern Rock Opera. The 70s-style double LP won critical praise with its blazing three-guitar attack and hard-hitting tales of the redemptive power of rock ‘n roll, plane crashes, and “the duality of the Southern thing.” It may have pigeonholed DBT for life as Skynyrd-worshipping hayseeds to some narrow-minded people, but it expanded their fanbase exponentially and is essentially responsible for allowing them to actually make a living playing rock ‘n roll in the years since it was released. The band seized on that opportunity right away by hiring young gun Jason Isbell to fill the third guitar slot just days after the release of Southern Rock Opera, replacing Rob Malone.

Isbell proved to be not only a wizard with the fretboard, but also a songwriter of arguably equal clout to Hood and Cooley, as evidenced by his exquisite contributions to DBT’s 21st Century rock classics Decoration Day (2003) and The Dirty South (2004). His songs on the more divisive follow-up, 2006’s A Blessing And A Curse, however, left something to be desired, and by the next year, he was out of the band, following his divorce from then-Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker (AWKWARD). Isbell has since gone on to mount an increasingly successful solo career, while the Truckers soldiered on with pedal steel extraordinaire John Neff filling the third guitar slot and Tucker beginning to contribute her own songs as well. This new configuration of DBT, also newly augmented by keyboardist Jay Gonzalez, released three albums between 2008 and 2011 and in that span actually sold more records and gained more widespread attention than they ever had before. However, Tucker and Neff both left the band following 2011’s Go-Go Boots, and have since been replaced by Matt Patton, formerly of the great Tuscaloosa band the Dexateens, and no one, respectively (though Gonzalez has taken to Jack White-style guitar/keyboard double duty to fill out the sound).

Obviously, DBT have been something of a revolving door over the years, but despite this have remained completely unified in terms of vision over the last 15 or so years. This can be attributed to the titanic power and resilience of the band’s only two constants over the years – Hood and Cooley. Others have had their parts to play in defining the band, of course, especially Isbell – like Mick Taylor with the Stones, plenty of fans believe he can be given a whole lot of credit for DBT’s success during their peak years, and that it’s all been downhill since he left the band. And drummer Brad “EZB” Morgan’s been around long enough (since ’99) to be considered a Charlie Watts-like third pillar of the band. But ultimately, it’s always been and always will be the inexplicably synergy of the Hood/Cooley machine that defines this band. One probably wouldn’t expect two such strong, distinctive, and seemingly divergent voices and personalities as Hood and Cooley’s to work in such perfect concert… but they just do. Like all the great rock duos, they haven’t always gotten along perfectly on a personal level, but the musical chemistry has always been there. Hood is the melodic utilitarian, raging populist, and beating heart behind the DBT’s ambition, all unsmotherable passion for the rock how; Cooley is the slick-ass Richardsian motherfucker with a molasses-smooth Deep South baritone and an incomparable ability to pull brilliant one-liners out of his ass seemingly at will, his lyrical identity being comprised of an unmistakable combination of back porch colloquial wit and wisdom and fascinatingly esoteric layers of meaning imagery. In tandem, the two of them have been able to collectively create, with all their works, arguably the most vivid, rich and relatable collective portrait that any 20th -21st Century songwriter(s) have yet managed – right up there with your Guthries and your Dylans and your Springsteens and whomever else you’d like to throw in for consideration. In short, DBT are, to me, rock’s greatest storytellers.

So if that seems to you like ludicrously high praise for this bunch of old, unhip Southern fucks, then I dunno, go do something else. Watch SpongeBob. Take a nap. Drink some pomegranate juice. Go blow your kids’ college savings at the blackjack table. Whatever it is you wanna do that you think, and most likely will be, more fun than reading this website. But I’ll be here rocking the fuck out in the event you decide to change your mind and join me. And I, and DBT, shall welcome you with open arms.


  1. Robin wrote:

    It is my understanding that most people find your mother extremely charming……….

  2. victoid wrote:

    All the great southern songsters are great storytellers. Blues, country, rock… all of ’em.
    They jes’ cain’t hep cookin up ‘n dishin out thet homespun cornpone.

Leave a Reply