Sunday, January 28, 2007

Drive-By Truckers - Decoration Day & The Dirty South

True to my word, after I finished the review of "A Blessing and a Curse" I surfed over to Amazon and ordered "Decoration Day" & "The Dirty South". It's been a good month and half since these two arrived at the house and there hasn't been a day since then that one of these two CD's doesn't get played at least once. After weeks of playtime with both these older albums my concerns about "A Blessing and a Curse" being a happy accident are unfounded. If anything I've grown to like these two, particulary "Decoration Day", even more than "Blessing". The raw edge that's evident on these two CD's makes the newest one almost seem a polished presentation. At this point I'd say it'd be safe to say that I'm gonna be a Drive-By Truckers fan for a long time. Because I've been switching these two pieces of work back and forth continually on the player I thought it'd be only fair to go thru and do a quickie review of the tunes on both albums, starting with the older of the two.....2003's Decoration Day. Suffice it to say if you like Southern Rock 'n' Roll you'll probably dig this band.
The Deeper In - This one starts out with some Acapella Patterson Hood vocal and then breaks into a slow country waltz. I'm not sure I'd have known what this tune was about without reading the lyric booklet but I did so I know it's about the only two people currently serving time in America for consensual brother/sister Incest. In Michigan no less.......Musically it's kind of a slow start for the album, nothing really to draw you in, no foot tapping guitar hooks although there is a nice pedal steel break in the middle, not easy to sing along with but by the end of it you've got an idea what you're in for with DBT.
Sinkhole - Yeah, now this is more like it. Definitely uptempo with a great guitar riff to get the ball rollin' right away. Basically about a farmer who's losing his farm to the bank so he invites the banker out to his place for dinner and ends up burying the banker in the sinkhole. Not exactly a happy ending, at least for the banker......"Show him the view from Mcgee town hill, let him stand in my shoes and see how it feels, to lose the last thing on earth that's real, I'd rather lose my legs and arms". A great tune, one of my favorites.
Hell No, I Ain't Happy - A rocker about life on the road in a touring rock and roll band. Not the most original topic but one I'm sure these boys can write about from years of first hand experience. A song about the downside of doing what you have to do to get where you want to go. I imagine that this one would be a great tune to see 'em do live. My favorite lines are the opening ones of the tune "There's a lot of bad wood underneath the veneer, She's an overnight sensation after 25 years....."
Marry Me - A Mike Cooley tune that I'm not real sure I understand. Not a bad tune, there's some great guitar but one of the low points on this disc for me. Music not's bad but nothing really sticks out either. Not every tune can be an ear grabber I guess.
My Sweet Annette - One of my favs on this disc. A good ole country rocker about the guy who is going to marry Annette, he's bought the ring and the date is set but instead ends up eloping with her best friend Marilee and leaves Annette standing at the alter. Strong points here are that this one tells a story and the music carries it along well. Hard not to sing along with this one everytime it plays
Outfit - A great Jason Isbell tune. Again the theme is about not getting what you want out of life but being true to yourself nevertheless. "Six months in a St. Florian foundry, they call it Industrial Park, Then hospital maintenance and tech school, just to memorize frigidaire parts. But I got to missing your mamma, and I got to missing you too, so I went back to painting for my old man and I guess that's what I'll always do...." Another one that's hard not to sing along with...
Heathens - Maybe my favorite tune on this album. Great music and lyrics and Patterson sings this with a lot of feeling. I've considered using the last verse for my sigfile lately cuz I like it so much. "These Times can take their toll sometimes and I know you feel the same way too, it gets so hard to keep between the ditches, when the roads wind the way they do....."
Sounds Better In The Song - Another Mike Cooley tune about love gone wrong. Nothing really stands out in this one but not every tune has to be a grabber's not hard to listen too, just doesn't have the impact on me that some of the other tunes do.
(Something's Got To) Give Pretty Soon - Another great tune with lots of nice guitar hooks. I really like the vocals on this cut. Deterioating relationships is the topic this time. "And you say it's these things I do, about me that's attracted you, so If I started doing something else, what would we have left?" I guess it's best to find a mate that you don't have to try and change when you're going for the long term relationship. Great guitar thru-out
Your Daddy Hates Me - A slow Bluesy rocker that drags a bit on the length but the vocals are great and musically it gets the job done.
Careless - A short rocker dedicated to a friend of the band who got killed while drinking and driving. This one is high energy and the moral behind the words is the price for being careless is bigger for some than others " You left this big ole void, sure miss your sweet voice, Now we're left holding on, we all were careless once......"
When The Pin Hits The Shell - A Mike Cooley song about suicide. Blunt and to the point. "You can lie to your mama, you can lie to your race but you can't lie to nobody with that cold steel in your face and the same God that you're so afraid of is gonna send you to hell, is the same one you're gonna answer to when the pin hits the shell"
Do It Yourself - Another song about Suicide, this time from the pen of Patterson Hood. This one's a great rocker with strong lyics that oughta keep anybody from taking their own life if they've got a modicum of awareness left in 'em. "You ran from life and all it's pleasures your own teeth marks on your own damned hand" "living too hard just couldn't kill you so in the end you had to do it yourself"
Decoration Day - Great guitar starts this one out. A Jason Isbell tune about what I think is a Hatfield's & McCoys type of situation with ongoing feuding. Can't say for sure if it's from real experience or not but it paints a picture for me at least of the stupidity and futility of carrying on a feud.
Loaded Gun In The Closet - This is the closer for this album another lower point for me. It's about a guy who goes to work everyday pissed at the world and comes home everynight to his wife. I get the impression that the gun in the closet is for her to use on him, but I'm not entirely sure why I think that either.......this is one of the few tunes I skip over when it comes up on the Ipod.
2004 - The Dirty South
Where The Devil Don't Stay - Now this album starts off the way I think that Decoration day should've started....with an upbeat rocker. This one's about moonshining and all that entails.
Tornadoes - Just like the title says......this one's about tornadoes. ""It came without a warning" said Bobbi Jo McLean, She and husband Nolan always loved to watch the rain, It sucked him out the window, he ain't come home again, all she can remember is "it sounded like a train""
The Day John Henry Died - This is the first one that really gets my foot atappin'. A Jason Isbell tune that rocks. "It didn't matter if he won, if he lived, or if he'd run, they changed the way his job was done, labor costs were high, The new machine was cheap as hell and only John would work as well so they left him lying where he fell, the day John Henry died"
Puttin' People On The Moon - This story is told in pissed off person. More references in this one to Huntsville AL where NASA has roots. "Another joker in the White House said a change was comin' round, but I"m still workin' at the Wal Mart and Mary Alice is in the ground, and all them politicians they are lying sacks of shit, they say better days are upon us but I'm still sucking left hind tit"
Carl Perkins' Cadillac - This tune is about Sun Records back in the beginning. Great twangy guitars and a good vocal by Mike Cooley. "Damnit Elvis, I swear son I think it's time you came around, Making money you can't spend ain't what being dead's about" This is about as close to an UPbeat tune as DBT gets I believe.
The Sands Of Iwo Jima - This is one of my favorites for sure. I'd have liked to meet Patterson's grandpa. This is just a great tune all the way around. "And I thought about that movie, asked if it was that way, he just shook his head and smiled at me in such a loving way, as he thought about some friends he will never see again, he said I never saw John Wayne on the sands of Iwo Jima"
Danko / Manual - This tune is dedicated to the two members of the Band who died before their time. This one really gets me with the feeling that presides over it. Starts out with a slow drum beat and then some beautiful acoustic guitar. Once the vocal starts I've just gotta sing along. "I ain't livin' Like I should, a little rest might do me good, Get to sinking in the place where I once stood, Now I ain't living like I should"
The Boys From Alabama - A rocker and one of two tunes relating to Buford Pusser and that whole "Walking Tall" era.
Cottonseed - An acoustic Mike Cooley tune about life on the opposite side of the law....buying judges and circumventing the system.
The Buford Stick - The second tune on this disc about Buford Pusser. This one talks about how the folks trying to make a living on the edge hated Pusser for his intervention in their lives. "Watch out for Buford he's shutting down our stills and whores, but it ain't like he's all that different from what was there before, It wouldn't take my man long to do the job, just a partially sawed thru steering rod".
Daddy's Cup - a NASCAR song. This is one of few that I have to wade thru. It's a long story and not all that interesting about the son who carries on for his dad who can't drive any longer.
Never Gonna Change - Another favorite of mine...a bluesy rocker that really kicks butt. "Daddy used to empty out his shotgun shells and fill 'em full of blackeyed peas, He'd aim real low and tear out your ankles or rip right through your knees"
Lookout Mountain - Another great rocker with suicide as the topic again. This one asks a bunch of great questions. "Who will end up with my records, who will end up with my tapes, who will pay my credit card bills, who will pay for my mistakes?"
Goddamn Lonely Love - The final tune on this one is by Jason Isbell and it's a nicely crafted tune about love lost and the pain of it all. A real nice melody and feeling to this one that makes it hard not to sing along.
...and there ya have it. I'm about to order "Southern Rock Opera" and "live at the 40watt" a DVD of their live performances as I'll probably never get the chance to see 'em live.