For years, Patterson Hood and his band Drive-By Truckers have been claiming to be more than just a southern rock band. Dating back to the 2001 release of their double-disc Southern Rock Opera, there has been little argument that the Truckers are one of rock music’s most potent and powerful bands both in the studio and on the stage. But the albums that put them on the map (each one an instant classic) – Rock Opera, Decoration Day and 2004’s The Dirty South – were clearly rooted firmly in the South. And although the band was working to dismantle common misconceptions of southern life – specifically, trying to enlighten folks on “the duality of the southern thing” – the music and the mindset have always been, without question, southern. But with the release of A Blessing and a Curse, the Truckers have finally put their money where their mouth is.
It’s not that they have abandoned the soul of what has made them great; they have simply pushed their sound out from under the Mason-Dixon Line and crafted an edgy rock album that resonates regardless of region. The clear separation from what they’ve done in the past left many longtime fans scratching their heads after the first spin. But after spending time with the 12 tracks on Blessing, it shows itself to be every bit as infectious and amazing as anything that has come before; it’s just different â€“ and that is something any fan of the band should damn well embrace. Mike Cooley‘s “Gravity’s Gone” is etched from the country-blues of Creedence or Sticky Fingers-era Stones, and Hood‘s “Little Bonnie,” a disturbing song about a cousin who dies young and a father who blames himself, is as eerie and heartbreaking as anything that’s come before it. Jason Isbell‘s “Easy on Yourself” is an urgent rocker showcasing his remarkable growth as a songwriter, while his song “Wednesday” is a nod to the Replacements that finds Isbell crooning in a high register he’s never even come close to reaching in the past.
****New West Records
I had a chance to speak to Jason the other day. The band was just beginning their tour in Texas and will be in Ct in july with The Black Crowes and the Robert Randolph Band. A big thanks to Traci for setting up the conversation.