Drive-By Truckers [Tipitina’s, Jazz Fest 2005]

It’s a bit tough to describe the experience that is a Drive-By Truckers show.  I’ll let lead Trucker Patterson Hood do it for me:  “The last time we played Tipitina’s, it was the Sundee before Mardi Gras.  We got in town ’round eleven, started drinkin’.  They gave us some fuckin’ red beans and rice.  Some fuckin’ jambalaya.  We kept drinkin’ Jack Daniels.  We’d eat some more red beans, drink some more Jack.  This went on for twelve hours, y’all.  I barely  made it to the stage, and I don’t even know how well we played that night.  But we love Tipitina’s…”

That, in a nutshell, is a Drive-By Truckers show.  But don’t let the watery words of Mr. Hood fool you; these guys are serious.  Their latest album, The Dirty South, is a Southern Gothic masterpiece that is part Skynyrd; part Faulkner; and, yes, part Jack Daniels.  Hood, along with fellow songwriters Jason Isbell and “The Stroker Ace” Mike Cooley, have built a reputation as the best Southern storytellers since Tennessee Williams.  When coupled with their furiously loud three guitar attack, the Truckers’ “fuck you, we’re from the South, we‘re proud” attitude is dirtier than the General Lee, the Rebel Flag, and a “Southern By The Grace of God” license plate combined.  It should be pointed out, however, that the group is very aware of what Hood calls the “dichotomy of the Southern thang”.  They have always viewed their homeland from an objective standpoint, loving the beautiful and criticizing the horrible.

But all of this lyrical subtlety won’t matter when they take the stage for their 2 a.m. show at Tip’s during Jazzfest.  What’ll matter is how loud they play, how much everyone in the room drinks, and how high the sun will be when the group’s (usually) three hour set is over.  Everyone will leave, shaking their heads in disbelief, smiling drunkenly, muttering “What in Hell was that?”  The Drive-By Truckers are not a live band.  They are a brutal, brilliant, beautiful force.

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