Release Date: 31st January 2020
Label: ATO Records
Format: CD / LP / DD / DSP
A three and a half year gap between this and Drive-By Truckers’ last studio album is the longest gap for these ‘alternative’ country artists. A bout of writer’s block caused they claim by being baffled by events around them is easily understand, especially as we have experienced our own brand of political confusion.
Nevertheless, once the juices began to flow, writers Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood created this splendid album. The stirring strings of Kyleen and Patti King (no relation) were added to enhance the dark opener, Rosemary With A Bible And Gun; a dedication to the city of Memphis which holds mythical qualities to the composers after a long-held desire to record there following the footsteps of legendary producer Sam Philips, whose unique sound they aimed to replicate on this album.
Prevailing doom and shock at how current events are thrust upon daily and never seem to abate are expressed in Armaggedon Is Here Again. A striking riff chases us through this track until a brief lull leads us into a brilliant, wild drum piece eventually fades out at the end.
Slow Ride Argument and Thoughts And Prayers offer us a calm solution to coming to terms with the madness. Flaring up angrily is seen as pointless, keeping cool and not rising to provocative behaviour a better option.
21st Century details some of the many wrongs in modern society showing any right-thinking person’s today who can see that the general way of life for many is worsening not improving. A frustrating situation that is as relevant to us in the UK as it is in the USA. This is the song that reignited Mike Cooley which resulted in some prolific songwriting with partner Patterson Hood.
These songs are ram packed with political thoughts and observations but without blatant preaching. This is more like, look this is the way we see it and how we deal with it.
The final three tracks, Babes in Cages, Grievance Merchants and Awaiting Resurrection, bare testimony to this. The brutality and blindness by today’s powers that be may leave us feeling powerless but the knowledge that the ‘dirty dealing’ will eventually fade and die as history has shown gives us some hope.
I have to admit, with some regret, that Drive-By Truckers are a new experience for me and not only can I empathise with their point of view but I enjoyed their brand of country music and look forward to catching up on their previous albums.
Much credit is given by Patterson Hood to the ambience created by recording in Memphis and the mixing on vintage equipment at Barbe’s Parke transaction studio in Georgia. In all they recorded 18 tracks of which 9 were chosen for this album. Some of the rest are targeted for the next album, which one expects, thankfully, will not be another 3 and a half years in the waiting.
Whether in the meantime we will witness the demise of those who have created everything that this group in anti remains to be seen. If you are not particularly politically orientated and had enough of being swapped with USA political news don’t despair. The country, rocky groove maintained throughout the whole album will be to your pleasing and many of the issues raised will be familiar to the chaotic atmosphere of British politics at the moment.
Ultimately, you can enjoy this album on two levels, empathy with the politics and the superb music.
A tour is imminent to promote the album with two visits to England; Leeds and London, in June 2020.