Go-Go Boots counts as the Drive By Truckers' 10th studio release. It’s the Truckers’ most R & B-country based collection of songs to date. Recorded in 2009 and 2010 at David Barbe’s Chase Park Transduction Studio in Athens, Georgia, “on glorious 2” analog tape”, Go-Go Boots also contains the indelible artwork of Wes Freed. This album is dedicated to a friend of the band Byron Wilkes and Athens songwriter Vic Chesnutt.
Patterson Hood wrote the Go-Go Boots liner notes on Friday, August 13, 2010, en route to the Atlanta Airport. He provided insight to this inimitable sequence of songs: “It’s the movie version. Names were changed, storylines simplified, characters unified and plotlines streamlined. It might have happened. Might even be a true story, but we’re not calling it that…It’s not better than ‘real life’. But for a couple of hours, ‘real life’ stops and we get to tell this story. Not quite how it really happened. But hopefully a little more entertaining.”
The music of the Drive By Truckers always evokes vivid images, and Go-Go Boots is no exception. The band emerges as unparalleled songwriters when it comes to weaving the fabric of story into song form, which evokes timeless characters of today’s southern soil. In the album promo notes Rick Bass wrote this about Go-Go Boots:
“It seems a paradox that while the Drive By Truckers’ sound is so unique; it is still part of a greater and larger family. Some of the other greats—particularly in the South—were spawned from their culture, while others came from the deeper rootstock of the southern landscape itself. Of course in the long run the landscape has a significant say in what kind of culture develops; it’s all tangled together, all connected, and everything shares bits and strands of those fragments, again like a pastiche of random and beautiful genomes. Each of the three vocalists—Cooley, Patterson, Shonna—is distinct; each aches in its own way with sometimes gravelly and other-times smooth sweet wistful broken-glass hurt and yearning and reluctant. Patterson’s songs, of course are almost willing, in the great southern tradition, to take on the Man—or anyone else—as are Cooley’s, when the cause is big and just.”
Hood’s sweet-tempered “I Do Believe” opens Go-Go Boots with a story about a loving grandmother. The title-track spins a yarn involving a local ‘preacher’ who becomes involved with a girl named Missy. Hood sings the lyrics: “Stained glass windows, Jesus looking down/Organs playing music to the middle aged crowd/His wife’s in the ground the devil’s in his head/Them go-go boots are underneath the bed.” Bassist Shonna Tucker’s “Dancin’ Ricky” evokes sonic threads of some lost country sessions at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.
Stroker Ace Mike Cooley sings the banjo-laced “Cartoon Gold” in a lazy drawl that allows musical embellishments of John Neff playing the dobro and Jay Gonzalez’s twinkling piano to shine. “Ray’s Automatic Weapon”, written by Hood, demonstrates how the Truckers employ a sparse sound to emit a certain musical emotion.
The next song, a cover of Eddie Hinton’s classic “Everybody Needs Love” stands as the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard Patterson Hood give. It’s amazing. The Truckers truly capture the essence of lost, legendary southern-soul and the musical beauty of his everlasting spirit on this song.
Hood’s sardonic “Assholes” portrays a compelling story revolving around record company folks taking offense to an artist’s protection over his work. This composition ranks as one of this album’s finest numbers. Hood sings: “You buy me dinner/Talk about records that you know/Lay the friendship card upon me and out the door/Somebody said we hurt your feelings with our little dirty jokes/Then you accused us of stealing back our soul.”
Cooley’s country ditty, “The Weakest Man”, epitomizes the story of a man who loves a poison woman and finally musters the courage to let her go. Cooley’s ability to fit a lyrical phrase around a musical hook stands unrivaled. “Used To Be A Cop” wanders into a cinematic musical narrative of a shattered man down on his luck, and the toll it takes on his mind.
“The Fireplace Poker” paints the musical picture of a Colbert County preacher murdering his wife with an ugly weapon. Hood’s lyrics provide a crime scene imagery: “The preacher came home from the funeral and found Policemen waiting/the heathens, it seems, got coked up and drunk and did a lot of communicating/Life is cheap for a couple of creeps but this here is the smoker/Their prints were found all over the room but not on the fireplace poker.”
Shonna Tucker sings another Eddie Hinton cover, “Where’s Eddie?” Hood wrote in the liner notes about the musical lineage the Truckers entrench their musical ethos: “I can still remember Eddie Hinton coming over to our house when I was a small child. He was my Dad’s friend and they played together on some really cool records. As a kid, I remember him being more attentive to a small child than most of Dad’s co-workers. Later on, he was known to be very troubled and spent a good part of his later years in and out of institutions and such, but I was never around him then, I did get to see him play once in the 80s at a small bar in Sheffield, Alabama, called Calico’s. It was a great show.
"Legend has it, that when Bob Dylan came to Muscle Shoals to record for the first time (summer 1973, playing on Donnie Fritts’ first album Prone To Lean), he spent most of his time sitting underneath a tree conversing with Eddie Hinton. Eddie was so brilliant on so many levels and it would figure that Mr. Zimmerman would be drawn to him.”
Hood’s “Thanksgiving Filter” reveals the sadness of watching loved ones grow old. Cooley’s “Pulaski”, another country gem, portrays a story of a young Tennessee girl who moved to California in search of an elusive dream. Hood’s “Mercy Buckets” closes the album with tangled twangs and a heartfelt message of a timeless bond: “When you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, call on me/If you’re feeling that freight train running through your head, call on me/If you just need a friend to talk to or maybe not talk at all…”
Go-Go Boots contends as the Drive By Truckers finest release yet…