concerts: drive-by truckers @ cat’s cradle

drive-by truckers @ the cat's cradle

Since I fell back in love with the Truckers in October at the Tab, I’d been looking forward to the date at the Cradle, soon after Trav’s move here, for weeks. It totally, totally turned out to be worth it — a two hour set full of rarities and heavy on The Dirty South, Decoration Day, and even some of my favorites from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (“The Righteous Path”! You don’t have to love it, but I do, and the current arrangement is super duper badass). And to change it up a little, well. I didn’t take my camera. I could have, but I haven’t been a civilian at a show in years and years, and for once, just once, I wanted to. Trav and I stood at the back and held hands and sang along; I introduced him to some of my Cradle buddies; we worked our way forward for the end of the encore and “Shut Up And Get On The Plane”.

It was, quite frankly, the best Truckers set I’ve ever seen. The set list was killer, the current five piece band is tight as hell and I’m loving having way more Jay on organ audible in the live mix, and I always go see the Truckers and remember that Mike Cooley’s songwriting absolutely blows me away every time. These guys, you guys. They’re still pretty fabulous.

(I did not take this photo last Saturday. I took it in 2008, on my old Nikon N65 Boomer, on film. I still love it.)

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concerts: drive-by truckers @ the tabernacle

drive-by truckers @ the tabernacle

I wrote about the Truckers for Speakers this week. Full set, including St. Paul & the Broken Bones, on Flickr.

Set list: English Oceans / Righteous Path / A Ghost To Most / Pauline Hawkins / Birthday Boy / Girls Who Smoke / Where The Devil Won’t Stay / Sinkhole / Sounds Better In The Song / Tornadoes / Primer Coat / The Living Bubba / ‘Til He’s Dead Or Rises / Buttholeville / Shit Shots Count / Lookout Mountain // Encore: First Air of Autmun / Runaway Train / Women Without Whiskey / Box of Spiders / Zip City / Hell No I Ain’t Happy / Marry Me / Grand Canyon

flashback friday: mike cooley on film

drive-by truckers @ the national, richmond, va

I wanted to have something smart and reflective to say about taking Trav to see the Truckers at the Tab tonight, but I’m having a crisis of photography faith, so instead I went looking for the first shot I took on film that made me believe I could do this. Six years later, I am still proud as hell of it.

See you at the Rock Show.

drive-by truckers @ haw river ballroom

drive-by truckers @ haw river ballroom

drive-by truckers @ haw river ballroom

drive-by truckers @ haw river ballroom

I hadn’t seen the Truckers in almost 18 months — Hopscotch 2011 — and when Patterson launched into “The Living Bubba” last night, even as I was deeply exhausted and irritated at the crowd, it felt like a physical relief to see the band. They have meant so much to me for many years, and while it was strange to not see Shonna up there, I think they’re sounding the best they ever have. Patterson and Cooley are such a well-oiled machine, Jay Gonzalez is too talented at everything, EZB is a machine, and the new little bassist from the Dexateens is having the time of his life playing with them. Everyone on stage looked happy and relaxed, and it shone through in their playing.  Mike Cooley is still desperately sexy. It felt familiar, and it made me happy.

I had a few bad interactions in the crowd, and, just, you know: you are not entitled to anything just because you think you love a band the best. There’s no way to measure that. And shoving people out of the way makes you a bad person.

Regardless: last night, I really loved the Truckers, and that makes me happy today.

the whigs @ haw river ballroom

I really loved the Whigs’ last record, and I enjoyed large chunks of their opening set. There was some rambly guitar wanking in the middle of their set that I found deeply irritating, because my feelings about jam bands are well-documented, but it didn’t turn me off, just bored me a bit. The rest of their set was great.

Full photo set is here.

album review: patterson hood — heat lightning rumbles in the distance

hopscotch music fest: the drive-by truckers

Patterson Hood — Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance. Out 9/4, ATO Records.

Patterson Hood has always been my least favorite songwriter of those who’ve passed through and stayed in the Drive-By Truckers; this doesn’t mean I don’t love Patterson’s songwriting, not by any stretch of the imagination, because I do, and he’s written some of my favorite Truckers songs. It just means I’ve always been more drawn to Cooley’s writing as a whole body of work, or to Jason Isbell’s, or even to Shonna Tucker’s. Sometimes Patterson really needs an editor, is all I’m saying. (“Mercy Buckets” is a terrible song, Truckers fans, and if you don’t realize that, you have a problem.) He could stand to shut up once in a while, you know?

Luckily, I don’t think that Patterson Hood needs to shut up even once on his new solo record, his second release on Charlottesville’s ATO Records.

It’s a neat little slice of Patterson’s signature Southern Gothic storytelling, right from the start: “12:01”, a song about buying booze after midnight to get around blue laws, and about the destruction of a relationship from drinking, is a rainy, pedal-steeled lament to the way you can fuck up your own life when you only mean the best. Nobody in Patterson’s songs ever gets quite what they want, after all, and that continues through the album. “Leaving Time” leads its chorus with the line do what you’re told without a fuss, and “Disappear” is an ode to running out on your problems.

The prize of this record is that the songwriting is always deliciously compact — Patterson has managed to tell his stories in less time, with a wider range of sounds than most Truckers records have. There are the minor key broken heart songs like “12:01”, but there are songs like “Better Off Without” which could have easily come right off of Go Go Boots: thinking about things that I’m better off without. It’s got the twanging guitars, metronomic drumming, and lovely harmonic vocals on the second verse that sound just like the Truckers, even under Patterson’s solo name, and “(untold pretties)” is one of Patterson’s gorgeous spoken word pieces that have fallen off the Truckers’ releases in recent years but still pack a pretty huge damn emotional punch, punctuated by Johnny Neff’s pedal steel.

“After the Damage” is a perfect post-break-up song, about the relationships you torch after the one that broke your heart; and “Come Back Little Star”, as I’ve written on Speakers in Code, is a gut-wrenching song about the people left behind after a suicide (the song was co-written by Patterson and Kelly Hogan in honor of the late Vic Chestnutt). Patterson is good at songs that eyeball the darkness inside situations, but he’s great at songs that look at the aftermath in sympathetic, heart-wide-open ways.

This is recommended, because it’s Patterson Hood at his songwriting best, with none of the 8 minute tracks that make me roll my eyes and grumble at him. It’s Patterson, filtered down to the rawest emotions and the most direct songs, and it’s lovely.

drive-by truckers — go-go boots

bristol rhythm & roots: drive-by truckers

Drive-By Truckers — Go Go Boots. Out 2/15, ATO Records.

I am going to get this out of the way first: I do not like this album as much as I liked The Big To-Do; in fact, it isn’t even close. There are tracks I love, and there are things about it that really work for me, but as a whole, Go Go Boots feels more like Brighter Than, an album I have documented problems with, than it feels like TBTD.

So knowing that going in: forewarned is forearmed, people.

I knew that GGB was going to sound different from TBTD; Patterson said that upfront, when he announced last year that they’d made two albums. And I’m not opposed to albums that sound different, because different songs fit on different records, and I am one of those people who doesn’t want my favorite bands to keep making the same album over and over again. But the biggest problem that I have with GGB is that it is not a cohesive record — it sounds, to me, like a collection of b-sides from TBTD sessions, songs that didn’t work on that album and so got shoved onto this one. I don’t think that’s how it was meant to sound — I think it was really meant to be its own album. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me that way.

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