Daddy music: Drive-By Truckers


The most notably repeated word/concept on Decoration Day,  the Truckers’ last record near this good, was “daddy”. Even though Patterson Hood was at least 35, the daddy was always in not just the third person, but the previous generation – his, yours,  a moral authority sought or one unavoidable, or one to try your damndest to ignore. This time, daddy shows up plenty, though no more than “wife” or “kids” because this time he’s singing in the voice of the daddy or characters whose peers are – guys who live with the responsibility, live for it, or avoid it with cunning or, as in “Bob,” an admiring portrait of a permanent bachelor-loner-slob, avoid it without much difficulty at all.  A lot can happen to a guy’s head in five years.

Jason Isbell, who was in his early 20’s five years ago and wrote about his daddy like he still called home a lot, as in his best song he did, is gone. But the weird thing is that his now-ex-wife Shonna Tucker has not only stayed on, but started writing and singing. She’s not up to Isbell’s best, not yet, but she deserves the shots she gets. Meanwhile, and maybe this was already happening on one of the ensuing albums whose songs didn’t get me to pay full attention to, they’ve lightened up their touch as a band, no longer feeling that every song needs to get rammed home just because they know how to do it right. They’re better off just a little laid back, like the Bottle Rockets when they don’t have an absolutely singular song like “Radar Gun” or “$1000 Car.” They’ve convinced me they’ll be in it for the long haul, and that before their next one in 2010 or so I should check out The Dirty South and A Blessing and a Curse again.


2 Responses to “Daddy music: Drive-By Truckers”

  1. 1 kmostern

    Listened to Brighter Than Creation’s Dark for the first time yesterday, and loved it. DBT are one of the most ambitious bands out there right now, and it’s remarkable how often they succeed at going for the big statement — years ago they convinced this non gun user to learn to live with “When the Pin Hits the Shell”; here the grand statements start with the opener, “Two Daughters and A Beautiful Wife”, and, cut by cut, keep revealing something new and smart about life in what is left of the south (i.e. hasn’t yet become the sun belt).

    I have to admit that, having hated both their name and their album titles from the beginning (and this one is no different from that point of view), my resistences start so high that when I don’t love them I dismiss them; thus I couldn’t tell you one thing about “Southern Rock Opera” or “The Dirty South,” which I have listened to, and I never got “A Blessing And A Curse” at all. Yet — and I’ve only listened once, so I don’t know how deep it’ll last — “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” sounds like their second top notch album this decade, putting them in what is for me a very tiny group of artists to emerge this decade and make two fine albums.

    One note, since both you and Christgau make a point of noting that Shonna Tucker isn’t the songwriter that the boys are as of now: of her three songs, “Home Field Advantage” is the real deal, built from a metaphor that seems years overdue now that it’s happened — the girl’s song about the guy’s abuse of power through the big sports metaphor; “home field advantage” is, precisely, a metaphor for phallocentrism. This is big stuff. Unfortunately, the melody isn’t up to the meaning. Where the band puts power behind the title, the melody trails off, and it’s not that her voice isn’t up to it, but that the tune itself lacks somewhere to go (she fails to “bring it home,” you might say). At least that’s how it sounds to me on first listen. Maybe on subsequent listens I’ll come to see that failure of melody as the point, rather than as a problem.

  2. 2 schweitzito

    Didn’t realize you considered Decoration Day “top notch”. Not sure I quite do myself — at my peak fascination with the album, I knew there were weak cuts in the middle of the second half, which is where this slightly lesser album’s show up, which means they know their strengths and weaknesses, and understand the importance of going out with the bang they came in on.

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