Drive-By Truckers – The New OK: Album Review

Drive-By Truckers’ 13th studio album, The New OK, arrives mere months after the release of the band’s highly acclaimed The Unravelling.

Released: 2nd October (Digital); 18th December (Physical)

Label : ATO Records

Formats: Digital / CD / LP

Drive By Truckers join a host of groups who have used the period of isolation and lack of touring to head back into the studio. Originally conceived as a quarantine EP, The New OK includes a set of wildly provocative new songs.

Patterson Hood’s aim to record ‘a full album that hopefully balances out the darkness of our current situation with a hope for better days and nights ahead,’ has been fully realised and is deserving the same accolades given to 2020’s excellent The Unravelling.

Given that super material excluded from The Unravelling has found its way on to the New OK is testament to the quality of both albums. But this is what Drive-By Truckers do. They are reliably performing high quality, entertaining, social commentary.

These songs reflect many discerning observations of current times; confusion, frustration, vexation and acceptance of what can be described as the New OK. This rollicking opener questions how far we are going to accept what is thrown at us before we fight back over lots of society’s issues. A sombre beginning to Tough To Let Go builds up to echoing, twanging guitar, wailing bluesy keyboards. The song describes the struggle to hang on to a semblance of an acceptable way of life.

Rock’n’roll and punky chanting ramp along as quickly as the stitches of our dreams are ‘unravelling’ from our hopes for the future, as we head toward all our worst nightmares of an oppressive Perilous Night. The tempo of these two tracks may be upbeat but the mood isn’t.

A melting guitar effect with a soulful brass backing chugs along in Sea Island Lonely which is a departure from the usual country licks. The Distance surrounds us with all that is great about Drive-By Truckers; exquisite crashing guitars, steady pulsing beat and clear meaningful lyrics. Soft keyboards and snary drums motor gently through Sarah’s Flame, telling the story of her kindly services rendered to the pick up community.

Watching The Orange Clouds was inspired by the response to protests following the death of George Floyd. It expresses Patterson Hood’s frustration of finding a solution to all the fallout from society’s dilemmas, which probably equal many sane thinking American’s worries about the Ku Klux Clan atrocities. Appropriately, the album is completed with a cover of the Ramones’ The KKK Took My Baby Away.

The Unravelling, ‘was a warning shot hinting at the coming storm,’ but the New OK expresses a state of mind ‘in the wreckage and aftermath.’ In both albums Patterson has managed to temper both the despair and hope we are all experiencing within the framework of Drive-By Truckers unique country-rock style.

By Christmas, when the album has a wider release, who knows what the state of the world will be like. By then, Patterson and his fellow Truckers might have yet another perspective of events around us. I hope so; because they’ll need to return to the studio and record more wonderful Drive-By Truckers music.

Listen to Drive-By Truckers’ The New OK below.

Drive-By Truckers: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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