Drive-By Truckers – Alabama Ass Whuppin’

Alabama Ass Whuppin’ (2000)

B+ 

1. Why Henry Drinks 2. Lookout Mountain 3. The Living Bubba 4. Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus) 5. Don’t Be In Love Around Me 6. 18 Wheels Of Love 7. The Avon Lady 8. Margo And Harold 9. Alabama Ass Whuppin’ Banter 10. Buttholeville 11. Steve McQueen 12. People Who Died 13. Love Like This

 

“DO YA WANT SOME MORE???” Cooley would like to know. Well, if yer lookin’ for more of that hick-flavored acoustic stuff the Truckers had been dishing out on their last couple of albums, you definitely won’t find it here. Rather, this live document, culled from five 1999 Georgia club gigs, sees the Truckers being something they hadn’t been before and haven’t been since: a lean, mean, grimy four-piece garage band. Indeed, the mode here is, in Patterson’s own words, “cheap copies of Gibsons through beat up amps” turned up loud as fuck. Anyone who came out to these shows expecting a nice, polite acoustic evening of “Bulldozers And Dirt” and “Late For Church” and the like probably left a bit taken aback. And probably drunk as shit. The 40 Watt in Athens does have a $5 PBR tallboy bargain, after all, and who knows how cheap they were in 90s dollars. Yikes.

Alabama Ass Whuppin’ actually captures DBT at an extremely crucial and transitional point in their history. Following the release of Pizza Deliverance, they said “fuck it,” quit their jobs, and hit the road full time, playing at whatever dive bar would have them (and sleeping on whatever floor would have them too). This is how rock ‘n roll legends are born, of course – who doesn’t love the tale of the gang of nobodies that, through hard work and perseverance, catapults themselves to stardom from the humblest of conditions? It’s a classic American, bootstrap-pullin’ story, really – shit, I bet if we could convince a few Congressional Republicans that “Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)” was actually a sincerely expressed sentiment on the band’s part, then I’d bet there would be a bill on the House floor proposing that we lower the effective tax rate on all current and former members of DBT in the name of “job creation.” Now that’s legislation I could get behind.

Whatever important historical importance Ass Whuppin’ might possess, for a while now it’s been more of a missing link than anything. It went out of print pretty quickly and it wasn’t until 2013 (which I’m not quite prepared to call “last year” yet. It’s cheating if “last year” was only two weeks ago!) that it got remastered and reissued with fancy new artwork and liner notes and stuff. So for a band that has been through a whole lot of transitions, both stylistically and personnel-wise, it seems like the time is ripe to acknowledge their first big one. And yet, although in one sense it does provide a bridge between DBT’s first two albums and Southern Rock Opera—mostly by virtue of its volume—it’s also an entity unto itself, too ramshackle and blunt to sound like anything they’ve done since.

The record starts off with a shit hot version of “Why Henry Drinks,” which is one of only two songs here, along with “Buttholeville,” that at all resemble their studio counterparts. Instead, we either get semi-radical reworkings of tunes from the first two albums or otherwise unheard chestnuts. Included among this latter category is “Lookout Mountain,” a Patterson song dating back to the late 80s that Adam’s House Cat recorded in comparatively unspectacular fashion. Here, it’s endowed for the first time with the signature powerhouse four-note riff that would turn it into a DBT classic when they re-recorded it for The Dirty South. It’s a little rough compared to the later studio version, but hey, the guitars are loud enough. Also among the previously unreleased selections is the brooding double-time shitkicker “Don’t Be In Love Around Me,” which they conversely never returned to and which was originally left off of Pizza Deliverance in favor of “The President’s Penis Is Missing.” Hey, sometimes we all make stupid decisions. Like that time in college when I decided it would be a good idea to piss in a phone booth. That was pretty dumb.

Of the songs we’d heard from DBT before, “18 Wheels Of Love” and “Steve McQueen” get the most noticeable makeovers. “18 Wheels” is given a long spoken-word intro detailing the story behind the song—according to Patterson, inspired by similarly lengthy intros common to many 70s soul songs—that’s actually way more fun than the song itself. Turns out Patterson actually wrote it for his mom upon her marriage to her second husband, a 350-pound trucker named Chester, as a wedding present. How adorable! And that’s the thing about DBT… even their few songs that sound like dumb toss-offs, like this one, well, “every goddamn word is true.” You really form a connection with the band as a listener, you know? Nothing wrong with aloofness and obfuscation if that’s what you’re about as an artist, but all I know is that when I listen to, like, Animal Collective or something, my soul becomes an empty void of numbness. Anyway, “Steve McQueen” starts out sounding like the studio version before morphing into a generic but nasty (the good kind) blooze jam and, after that, a raw cover of “Gimme Three Steps.” Warming up for all the Skynyrd talk on Southern Rock Opera, I guess.

Alabama Ass Whuppin’ is a really fun record, but there are two problems with it. First, it hits a snag in the middle with an ill-advised impromptu jam “The Avon Lady,” followed by a dreary extended version of the sleazy “Margo And Harold,” a song I never cared for in the first place, that just draaaaaaags. Second, not enough damn Cooley! Yeah, there’s an electrified “Love Like This” at the end, and it’s great, but that’s all? C’mon! Gimme a damn “One Of These Days” or “Panties In Your Purse” or a cover with him singing or SOMETHING! Geez! Regardless, it’s worth getting an Ass Whuppin’ if you’re a Truckers fan, or if you just really like loud, sloppy guitars. I sure do. Mmmmm. Sloppy.



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