The Dirty South
The Drive By Truckers
New West Records
By James Calemine
The Dirty South stands as The Drive By Truckers’ strongest album. This collection of songs contains some of the most ruthless moxie you’ll ever hear on a rock and roll record. As a chronological follow up to Decoration Day, The Dirty South (another David Barbe production) outweighs all other Trucker releases.
Not only the gritty texture of the music, but the songwriting on this CD ranks as flawless. The combined trinity of Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell leaves no room for sub-par material. From the opening beat of Cooley’s bootlegger-poison whiskey “Where The Devil Don’t Stay”, The Dirty South could serve as the soundtrack for The Devil’s Right Hand Band.
Patterson Hood’s liner notes indicates the album’s psychic weather: “Welcome to the Dirty South. It’s a tough place to make a living, but we ain’t complainin’. Just doing what we got to do. Trying to raise our kids and love our women. Do right by the one’s we love. But don’t fuck with us or we’ll cut off your head and throw your body over a spillway at the Wilson Dam. We’ll burn your house down. We mean business and it ain’t personal. Hell, I always liked ya. I might not want to get my hands dirty, but I got this buddy…In the end, I’ll continue loving my family. I’ll try not to fuck up too bad. Maybe I’ll live to tell the tale.”
These are dark songs whose provenance originates in the great state of Alabama. The Truckers know their history…they fall in line with Steve Cropper, Eddie Hinton and Otis Redding. This material deals with desperate people with no choice but to turn to a life of crime. Cooley’s songs—“Where The Devil Don’t Stay”, “Carl Perkins Cadillac”, “Cottonseed” and Daddy’s Cup”--contend as the strongest material. Although Isbell’s “The Day John Henry Died”, “Danko/Manuel”, “Never Gonna Change” and perhaps the album’s strongest composititon—“Goddamn Lonely Love”—verify his vast talent.
Yet, Hood still remains the heart and soul of The Drive By Truckers. His songs cast the most ruthless of tones. “Tornadoes”, “Puttin’ People On The Moon”, “The Buford Stick”, “The Sands of Iwo Jima”, “The Boys From Alabama” and “Lookout Mountain” cast a venomous perspective on the way people’s lives sometimes turn out. Patterson Hood told this writer about the material on this release: “Most of the people I meet are pretty nice across the world. There’s no shortage of things to really get mad about, upset about, cry about, but in the end you do what you can to fix what you can and find a way to do whatever you can to make a little piece of it better, and you revel in that. To me that’s kinda what it’s all about. That’s definitely where our heads are at with this new record without sounding lofty about it. At the same time, it’s a fucking rock record——I don’t want to get too cerebral about it. That’s why I love having three guitars to go along with all those dark messages…”
There’s a strong argument for The Dirty South being one of the top twenty meanest rock and roll albums of all time.