The southern rock opera rolls into Liverpool as Getintothis’ Mike Torpey witnesses Drive-By Truckers threaten to rip more than the roof off.
Drive-By Truckers write about small town life and death in the southern states of America.
Everything from drink fuelled sex and fast cars to loners, losers, bent cops and perverted preachers.
There are amusing character sketches, slow blues that drift in and out like the mists in a James Lee Burke novel and Dylan-esque observations on civil rights and exploitation – all served as an intoxicating mix of rock, alt country and soul.
You can feel ‘The Southern Thing’ in every note the Truckers play and as lead singer/guitar player/lyricist Patterson Hood so eloquently puts it: ‘Don’t fuck with us or we’ll cut off your head and throw your body over a spillway.‘
The latest of their nine studio albums, Go-Go Boots, is the focus of the six-piece band’s latest tour – even though they didn’t actually play the title track – but a two-hour show saw them plunder gems from 15 years on the road.
Two Alabama boys, Hood and fellow guitarist Mike ‘The Slider Ace’ Cooley, share not only most of the songwriting credits but the lion’s share of the vocals – Cooley’s a classic country drawl, the grizzly Hood’s a high-pitched, yet effective whine – and they dominated the Liverpool show.
It meant bass player Shonna Tucker, who has progressively emerged as a vital cog in the Truckers wheel, was limited to singing just one tune, Dancin’ Ricky; a shame because her voice is among the sweetest around.
The set kicked off with the storming Carl Perkins’ Cadillac, a song about the life of Sun Records boss Sam Phillips who promised a Cadillac to the first artist from his label to earn a gold disc – they expected it to be Elvis, Perkins beat him to it.
The pressures of 21st century family life (The Righteous Path), the seedy, unromantic allure of the hooker (Birthday Boy) and Ray’s Automatic Weapon about a veteran still haunted by wartime nightmares all showcased the slide guitar of the fresh-faced John Neff.
Everybody Needs Love, written by the late Eddie Hinton while suffering from depression in a mental institution, is a soul classic and the DBT delivered it with real class.
Mercy Buckets, the Go-Go Boots closer, was similarly magical – possibly the highlight – before the triple guitar assault of songs from the band’s 2001 breakthrough album Southern Rock Opera.
Dead, Drunk and Naked, Guitar Man Upstairs, Zip City and Let There Be Rock saw the Truckers at their shit-kicking, no compromise, best.
Hood once recommended that when listening to DBT you should ‘turn it up to 10 and rip off the knob‘. Make that 20.
Drive-By Truckers: Mercy Bucket (live in Atlanta, Feb 2011)