If ever there was a musical prism through which the divisive social and political events of the past five years could be viewed from a progressive perspective, the soundtrack would undoubtedly be provided by Drive-By Truckers (DBT). While the Athens outfit has long been political with their releases dating back to the sprawling 2000s double-album concept album Southern rock opera, DBT has shifted into high gear in the past five years since releasing the politically charged 2016 film. American group.

Drive-By Truckers from left to right: Brad Morgan, Jay Gonzalez, Matt Patton, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley
(Photo by Jason Thrasher / Big Hassle)

The unexpected response to a song collection that founding member Patterson Hood said “… was released ahead of the election and was a statement about what we saw happen and what became of Black Lives Matter. We saw it as its own standalone thing that we were going to do and then we were probably going to move on and do something else, ”found the tour stretching for months to years.

Fast forward to 2021 and Hood and the rest of DBT prepare to hit the road again after spending the last year and a half away from their usual meteoric touring schedule. And while the band spent this downtime playing virtual shows, getting PPP (Payment Protection Program) money, and relying on the kindness of die-hard fans buying their music from the Bandcamp online site. on a monthly basis, DBT also released a pair of albums in 2020 which formed an organic trilogy with American group.

The first one, Unraveling, was published in January and dealt with issues ranging from gun violence (the exuberant “thoughts and prayers”) and the Trump administration’s family separation policy (a dark and dirgey “Babies in Cages”). December follow-up, The new OK, was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that Portland-based Hood experienced firsthand. Hood’s response came from the fact that he noticed that hip-hop and pop artists were the only ones to address these issues with their art in relation to “… so-called rock and roll [artists] sort of pretend none of those things were happening.

“I think we ended up with an unintentional record trilogy, without putting a pretentious slant in it,” Hood explained. “It’s not like we sit down and say we’re going to write a trilogy of records bitching about the current situation in our country. But that’s kind of what ended up happening. When we did American group, we saw it as its own stand-alone thing that we were going to do and then we were probably going to move on and do something else. Honestly, we weren’t planning on filming behind him for three and a half years. As a group that’s kind of known to our southerner, and we’re obviously a bunch of these white, southern, middle-aged dudes, we kind of fall into the demographic stereotype of Trump. We thought it was important for people like us to talk about these things.

With the current state of the world, where musicians who express their point of view through their art are often pilloried so as not to stay in their lane and sing on more generic and benign subjects, DBT has been subjected to this genre. contempt on the part of conservative fans. But that’s not something Hood worries about, especially since he and his teammate Mike Cooley stirred the pot with political tariffs dating back to Cooley’s ‘Uncle Frank’ of the 1999s. Pizza delivery.

“I think we’ve always been political,” Hood said. “I always thought it was obvious. I was a little taken aback when people were outraged by American group. Some people couldn’t believe we had done this, but we had been doing this kind of thing all the time, you really didn’t care. You just listen to the hook or the guitar riff and you’re like, “It’s like Foghat,” but not quite. This song ‘Slow Ride’ is a little different. Upstream American group on the way out there was so much nastiness directed at us online. We kind of released this record thinking that we were probably going to sell half the records and half the tickets and that didn’t happen at all. It is one of our most successful records.

The final two-thirds of this album trilogy emerged from a seven-day recording session in 2018 in Memphis as DBT opened for the Tedeschi-Trucks Band on the latter’s summer tour. The opening slot provided an opportunity that spilled over into this record-breaking marathon bout.

“The opening of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band was a wonderful experience,” said Hood. “Every day we had an hour-long scale. Our crew is fast and we are a pretty tight organization. Basically, we got the job done in the first five or 10 minutes, so we were spending that hour putting wood into those songs. We entered the studio like a well-oiled machine. We cut almost everything Unraveling and two thirds of The new OK came out of this session and we’re intentionally sitting on three more tracks for this next project which will hopefully be released next year as they’re definitely thematic. As a band we often don’t have enough time to go to the studio and record because it’s expensive and we’re definitely a working class band.

Son of legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, Patterson Hood was bitten by the music bug early on with memories of his father brought home. Magical Mystery Tour at home when young Hood was only three years old listening to “Strawberry Fields Forever” while leafing through the album booklet. Having started writing his own songs when he was just eight years old, Hood ran away from home at 16 to catch Bruce Springsteen on River Tour, where this marathon show transformed the musician into a budding musician.
“It showed me what a gig can be up to catharsis and take an audience to another place, then another place, then another place,” Hood explained. “I’m building right where you were before this. Those four hours were definitely an education in the possibilities of rock and roll as an art form.

Fast forward to the present and with DBT ready to hit the road with these two new projects under his belt, Hood is quick to dispel the idea that viewers will only be served this latter material.
“With us about to hit the road for real, I don’t really see these records as necessarily being at the center of what we want to do,” he said. “They’re over there and we’ll definitely be playing a few songs from them. I’m proud of the songs, but we also have a pretty comprehensive catalog that we’ve been missing for quite a long time. The gigs we played were kind of drawn from all over the place. We’re just having fun reconnecting with each other and our fans. And we actually recorded what will be our next album. We’ll probably start working on some of these songs live and try out a song or two to see how they go too. I’m sort of looking at what we’re going to do, it’s Drive-By Truckers going to play rock and roll. As usual, we won’t be using a set list, so anything goes.

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