Down to Oxford Town January 30, 2011Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: drive-by truckers, Futurebirds, Oxford, Oxford girls are awesome, setlist, The Lyric
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Over the past seven or eight years I’ve become fully convinced that there is not a more consistently great live band in America than the Drive-By Truckers and Friday night’s show supported that theory once again. As expected, they totally rocked the place.
Friday evening, my friends Chris, Jerry, and Dan ran by our house and picked me up for our little trip down into Mississippi. We all piled into Chris’s jeep, turned up the satellite radio, and hit the road, ready for the big night ahead. We arrived a good hour before the show, so we picked up our tickets and hit a nearby bar to pass the time until the doors opened. The anticipation level was growing, the air crackling with a pre-concert electricity as we passed the time.
Soon, we entered The Lyric, a really cool venue in downtown Oxford that sort of reminded me of The New Daisy in Memphis, only better set up and maintained. We found a nice spot by the recording equipment where we could see well and keep out of the more rambunctious sections of the crowd. The taper was a really nice guy who said that he normally does Widespread shows, so we helped him with the setlist throughout the show.
The Futurebirds hit the stage around 9:00 and, though I had never heard them before, I was very impressed with their sound. The young band employed a banjo along with their distorted guitars, which gave them a very Uncle Tupelo-like sound, mixed in with harmonies reminiscent of the Avett Brother. We enjoyed their set and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
As a guy closing in on his mid-30s with a houseful of kids, I often feel older than I actually am, but sometimes things happen that make me realize that perhaps I’m not so far gone after all. In between shows we took turns running to the bar to keep our spot and grab a beer for the short dead time. It was crowded, so I slowly worked my way up to the bartender and soon found myself standing beside a young woman, who from appearances looked to be college-aged, with only one person in front of us. Being the gentleman that I am, once he finished, I motioned for the young lady to go ahead. She smiled and thanked me, then flashed me a mischevious grin, “Do you like whiskey?”
I was a little taken aback, but answered, “Well, umm…yeah.”
“Two shots!” she called out to the bartender and handed me one. We toasted to the night, downed them and she smiled at me again, “Enjoy the show.” I did.
DBT blazed onto the stage a little before 10:00, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley in fine form alongside their usual cohorts. Throughout the show they played a good deal of music from their soon-to-be-released album Go-Go Boots, including the opener, “Ray’s Automatic Weapon.” After that relatively unfamiliar tune, they launched into some concert mainstays, “Zip City” (which happens to be my favorite DBT song) and Sinkhole. They rocked through the set, their three guitar attack on fire tonight as they blazed through songs like “Nine Bullets,” “Birthday Boy,” and “Women Without Whiskey.” We were overjoyed to hear “The Living Bubba,” after their dedication of the song to Chris when we saw them in the Fall, and they ended the killer set as they have for years, with a killer rendition of “Lookout Mountain.”
Of course we knew that couldn’t be it and after a few minutes of adulation from the Oxford crowd, they exploded back onto the stage for a six song encore, beginning with the new tune “Used to Be a Cop,” followed by Cooley’s “Three Dimes Down,” a “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” sing-along, the up tempo “Get Downtown,” Shonna’s “(It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So,” and the big closer, “Let There Be Rock.”
By the end of the show we were completely spent in a good way. We loaded back into the jeep and made the late night (or early morning) drive back to Memphis, overjoyed to spend another night with the Drive-By Truckers.
The new album drops in two weeks and I can’t wait. Here is the complete setlist from the show.
Ray’s Automatic Weapon
Plastic Flowers on the Highway
I Do Believe
Women Without Whiskey
The Living Bubba
A Ghost to Most
Used to be a Cop
Three Dimes Down
Hell No I Ain’t Happy
I Told You So
Let There Be Rock
You can download the show here if you’re interested.
Free Music Friday – DBT! January 28, 2011Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: drive-by truckers, Used to be a Cop
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So, I’m going to see the Drive-By Truckers again tonight, so of course our selection today will reflect that. Check out “Used to be a Cop” from their upcoming album Go-Go Boots. Enjoy.
Tale of a Trucker Fan January 27, 2011Posted by Matt in concerts, music.
Tags: concert, drive-by truckers, music is life, Oxford
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The life of a human being is one that can be told by its degree of darkness. For what is life but a frightened stumble through the blackest night, with little to guide our wayward journey but the light that we ourselves find? Perhaps our luminescent glow emits from the books we read, perhaps from our religion, or perhaps, as in my case, it is through the lantern of music. Whether it is sweetly sung or a loud, discordant mess, it is the muse that joins me in the valley of the shadow of death, the vehicle by which this broken reality can be transcended.
I could wax on about a number of artists whose music has affected me in one way or another, but for the past ten years, there are few that have done so like the Drive-By Truckers. I believe the first time I ever heard of the band was in a magazine review of their 2001 magnum opus Southern Rock Opera, and I soon downloaded several of their songs. Then, in what can only be described as a providential act of Euterpe herself, a friend bestowed upon me a copy of their live album Alabama Ass Whuppin’, and immediately I was hooked. In 2003, upon the release of the incredible Decoration Day, I acquired a copy as quickly as possible and thus began my life as a Trucker devotee.
There is something about their Southern Gothic tales of the down-and-out, the reviled, their ruminations on God and love and death, that strikes at the very heart of my being, that registers in my soul like no one else. When they talk of “the duality of the Southern thing,” it strikes deep down because that is me. That is how I stumble through every day. I’m the one that’s “trying to hold steady on the righteous path.” And I’m the one who will say, “There ain’t much difference in the man I wanna be and the man I really am.”
I say all of this because I’m going to see them again tomorrow night, this time down in Oxford, Mississippi. To the best I can recall, this will be my seventh time to see the band and to say I’m excited would be a huge understatement. The last DBT show I caught was back in the Fall and it was one of the most incredible live experiences I’ve ever had. If you’d like to read my accounts of the show, both of which were also published on DBT’s fan site, you can see them here and here.
Tomorrow night can’t get here soon enough…
Random Five: Upcoming Music Releases January 13, 2011Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: 2011, Bright Eyes, drive-by truckers, J Mascis, Okkervil River, The Decemberists, upcoming album releases
You all know that I collect a good deal of music each year, including some 50 new albums in 2010 of a wide variety of genres, so I always look with interest at the upcoming album releases. According to Metacritic, here are five albums with release dates over the next few months that I am particularly looking forward to.
5. Jan 18: The Decemberists – The King is Dead
The Decemberists last two releases were huge, bombastic concept albums with a myriad of instruments and a storylines meant to hold the works together, and both of them were largely successful in my opinion. I’ve streamed their latest, The King is Dead, on NPR and really enjoyed it. This album is similar to their earlier releases, in that it is an excellent collection of individual songs rather than a longrunning tale, in which the individual parts make little sense apart from each other. This one is a definite winner from the hyper-literate band.
4. Feb 15: Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
I’ve been a big fan of Coner Oberst’s quavering voice since I first heard him several years ago and I have always been quick to pick up his works, whether they be solo or through Bright Eyes. I look forward to seeing the direction he takes the band in this time.
3. Feb 15: Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots
It goes without saying for semi-regular readers of this blog that I love the Drive-By Truckers. They are probably my favorite band of the past decade and every release is met with a huge sense of anticipation from me. This one is, of course, no different. I’ve heard a few of the new songs and they are great. Later on this month I’m planning on traveling over to Oxford with some friends to catch them and I’m sure I’ll have an even better idea of what to expect from the new release after that.
2. Mar 15: J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
Dinosaur Jr.’s guitarist/singer has been a force in indie/alternative music for more than two decades and I expect more of what he does best on this latest work – loud, fuzzy guitars and his trademark groaning vocals. It’ll be a must-hear.
1. May 10: Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
I’ve been a big fan of Austin’s Okkervil River ever since I first heard their 2007 release, The Stage Names, and 2008’s The Stand Ins continued their tradition of greatness. I expect this one to again shine in the intelligent, quirky manner that their past works have.
These releases have dates that will most likely hold firm, but there are several more upcoming albums that are expected in the next few months. Here are a few of those that I am particularly interested in:
Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee
Sure, they may be getting a little old for their shtick, but come on they’re still the Beastie Boys!
Blakroc – Blakroc 2
The collaboration of blues/rock duo The Black Keys with various hip-hop artists worked fairly well on their initial release, so I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us this time.
Jay-Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
I don’t know anything about this other than the fact that Jay-Z and Kanye will be working together. Awesome.
R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
I’ve been a fan of R.E.M. for a very long time and it was nice to see them return to form on 2008’s Accelerate. Hopefully they’ll keep the momentum going on this latest work.
Fleet Foxes – TBA
There were few things more soothing than the harmonies on their self-titled 2009 release.
My Morning Jacket – TBA
I’ve loved MMJ for years and their last work, 2008’s Evil Urges, totally blew me away, so I’m sure this will become a staple for me as well.
Outkast – TBA
Nobody knows if this will actually happen, but after Big Boi’s solo work in 2010, I’m more pumped than ever to hear what these guys from the ATL have in store for us.
Radiohead – TBA
Every Radiohead release is an event of which you must be a part.
Wilco – TBA
Over the last 15 years or so, Jeff Tweedy’s band has proven themselves to be among the greatest working today.
Amy Winehouse – TBA
Please? Please don’t kill yourself and please do treat us to your soulful voice again…
What are you looking forward to?
Best of 2010 – Music Edition (Top Ten) December 21, 2010Posted by Matt in Best of 2010.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Big Boi, drive-by truckers, Kanye West, Neil Young, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, The National, Top 10 albums of 2010
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Over the past two weeks we’ve been looking at my choices for the best music of 2010, beginning with ten honorable mentions, followed by those that I ranked 11-20. Today we continue our list with my top ten albums of 2010. Before we get started, though, here is a quick recap of the albums mentioned in the past entries.
Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
The Whigs – In the Dark
Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul
Magic Kids – Memphis
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
Robert Plant – Band of Joy
Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart
20. MGMT – Congratulations
19. Weezer – Hurley
18. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
17. Cee Lo Green – The Ladykiller
16. Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
14. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
13. Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
12. The Roots – How I Got Over
11. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
The Top Ten Albums of 2010
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
Listening to Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings is like stepping into a time machine and emerging in the R&B world of the 1960’s-70’s. The band has been around for nearly 15 years, but I was just introduced to them in 2010 – and let me tell you, it was a wonderful introduction. Combining funky horn-led arrangements with Jones’s outstanding soulful vocals, this is a welcome retro blast for those who enjoy sounds you might hear from Stax or Motown. From broken hearts to hard times on the poor side of town, Jones and her band tear through song after song with a mix of emotion and joy that is impossible not to like. Download: The Game Gets Old, Better Things, Money
9. The National – High Violet
Downbeat and moody, The National make dreary, rainy day music for those who choose to accept or even revel in the dark crevices of life, carrying on the gloomy tradition of late 70’s/80’s post-punk bands like Joy Division and The Cure. Matt Berninger’s rich baritone is the glue that holds these stories together and when he sings, “I live in the city sorrow built,” you believe him and your heart aches for him. The band is in great form on this work, which may be their best yet in a critically lauded career. Though it was released back in May, amid the sunshine and flowers, this is time of year for which it was meant, when the sun goes down early, the temperature drops, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness are magnified. Download: Sorrow, Anyone’s Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio
8. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
I first got into The Hold Steady with their 2008 album Stay Positive, my top pick for that year, so my hopes were high for their latest release and they did not disappoint. While I wasn’t that impressed the first time I listened to it, Heaven is Whenever grew on me quickly and by the time I saw them live over the summer it was among my favorites for the year. The album starts with the uncharacteristically slow, almost country music-like The Sweet Part of the City, before kicking into their normal, high-energy, bar band sound, tearing through track after track about the scene, a place characterized by street fights, parties, bars, and townies, but also where the beautiful happens. It’s a place where two music lovers can discover that, “Heaven is whenever we can get together, / Sit down on your floor / And listen to your records.” Download: Barely Breathing, We Can Get Together, Hurricane J
7. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot
Despite being one of the most talented and influential hip-hop collaborations in history, Outkast has been relatively quiet since their 2006 film project Idlewild, and have not released a proper album since 2004’s Grammy-winning Album of the Year, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, so the first solo release from Big Boi, one half of Outkast, was greatly anticipated by purveyors of intelligent hip-hop. Luscious kicks of with a short, funky intro before kicking into high gear and it quickly becomes apparent that Big Boi is in excellent form. He turns in a performance that reeks of dirty, George Clinton funk, with heaps of soul and old-school, Southern fried hip-hop added in for good measure. The songs are adventurous, inventive, and totally captivating. Now we just need a new Outkast album… Download: Daddy Fat Sax, Shutterbugg, Tangerine
6. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
I’ve been following just about every move of the Drive-By Truckers for nearly a decade, and though there have been some ups and downs, they are still, without a doubt, my favorite band of that time period. This latest release continues in the tradition of telling dark tales of life in Dixie through a three guitar, Southern rock avenue. Where their last release, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, displayed more of a country influence, To-Do is more of a straight-ahead rock album, blasting through tales of death, drugs, and depression with razor sharp lyrics and amps turned to ten. Co-leaders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley sound great, as usual, with Hood’s storytelling abilities at full strength and Cooley’s guitar and one-liners ringing out strong and true. The band touches on real events like the Church of Christ minister murder in Selmer (“That Wig He Made Her Wear”), classic tales of women done wrong (“Drag the Lake Charlie”), and even one that took place in Memphis (“Birthday Boy”). I’ve had the opportunity to see them twice on this tour and I can assure you that the band sounds as great as ever. Download: Drag the Lake Charlie, Birthday Boy, Santa Fe
5. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
I was first introduced to The Gaslight Anthem with their 2008 work, That ’59 Sound, and I quickly became a fan of their style, one that I described as being “like Springsteen fronting The Clash.” Their latest release continues in the same vein, with the band’s Jersey-influenced songs and hard charging guitars taking center stage, yet it may even best that album that I loved so much from two years ago. The Gaslight Anthem should be a huge, household name, but still they toil away in relative obscurity, playing anthems that could fill stadiums in smaller venues to a growing base of fans. If there is any justice in the world, these guys will be huge someday. When vocalist Brian Fallon sings, “While you told me fortunes in American slang,” you hope that those fortunes turn out well for the band. Download: American Slang, Boxer, Bring It On
4. The Black Keys – Brothers
I’ve been a big fan of blues-rock duo The Black Keys for several years and it has been fascinating to watch the evolution of the band beyond their initial blues focus to something that borrows from a number of genres, combining them into a fun, rocking whole. This latest release borrows some style from their last album, the Danger Mouse-produced Attack and Release, and their older, bluesier recordings, while adding in a few new wrinkles, swinging from vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach doing his best Prince impression on “Everlasting Light” to their trademark riffage on “She’s Long Gone,” to the keyboard-dominated “Too Afraid to Love You,” and they have never sounded better. I saw the band in concert a few years ago and the show was incredible, so it is my hope that they will make another stop in Memphis sometime in the near future. If you like good music, you need this album. Download: Next Girl, Tighten Up, She’s Long Gone
3. Kanye West – My Dark Twisted Fantasy
Over the past ten years there is perhaps no artist in rap music, or for that matter music in general, who is more important and timely than Kanye West. Sure, he has a tendency to go off the deep end publically, but all can be forgiven and forgotten by those who allow themselves be lost in his ingenious vision. My Dark Twisted Fantasy is more than just your average hip-hop album, it’s a landmark on par with nearly anything ever produced in the genre. After the underrated minimalism of his last work 808s and Heartbreak, the dense orchestrations present on Fantasy represent a completely new and welcome direction, one that displays rap music as the art form that it can be. The songs are long and powerful, pulling in the listener and not letting go. In the anthemic “Power,” with its tribal chants and King Crimson sampling, ‘Ye makes the prophetic statement “I guess every superhero needs his theme music,” and this is the sound of him finding his. The real gem on this work, though, is the uncomfortably confessional 10 minute opus “Runaway,” where he reveals this really tortured soul, telling the listeners how he’s “so gifted at findin’ what I don’t like the most,” before delving into some of the roughest verbal self-flagellation in recent memory. This is a must-own. Download: Runaway, Power, Monster
2. Neil Young – Le Noise
Though the initial news that Neil Young was collaborating with mega-producer Daniel Lanois was intriguing, it had been years since I heard anything from Young that interested me and I wasn’t putting much stock into this latest work. Then I heard it on NPR and immediately was hooked by both the music and the story behind it. According to reports, Lanois approached the 65 year old legend with a custom built guitar and an idea, a simple project consisting solely of Young, the guitar, and some great production, and this incredible work is the fruit of that partnership. Young sounds great, his voice still in excellent condition and his grungy guitar work reminding us of his widespread influence across the gamut of rock music. The old man still has his finger on the pulse of society, particularly in songs like “Angry World” where he sings, “Some see life as hope eternal / Some see life as a business plan / Some wish some would go to hell’s inferno / For screwing with their life in freedom land,” and in the fantastic, perhaps even career-defining track, “Love and War,” where his acoustic guitar and soft, almost whispery vocals become an ethereal vessel through which a great prophet can speak his message, saying, “When I sing about love and war / I don’t really know what I’m saying. / I’ve been in love and I’ve seen a lot of war / Seen a lot of people praying. / They pray to Allah and they pray to the Lord / But mostly the pray about love and war.” This beautiful and timely piece of societal commentary is indispensable. Download: Love and War, Angry World, Sign of Love
1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The Arcade Fire dealt with some big issues on their first two albums, so on their third, the band turns to another slice of America, the lifeless and endless suburban sprawl. As one of the millions and millions of people living in this area of concrete, strip malls, and cookie cutter houses stretching past the horizon (“Oh this city’s changed so much / Since I was a little child / Pray to God I won’t live to see / The death of everything that’s wild”), this work strikes a chord with me. It’s the land of quiet desperation, of fear and of endless attempts to escape, moving farther and farther away from supposed danger, never settling and always vigilant (“The town’s so strange they built it to change”). In the album opener, “The Suburbs,” vocalist Win Butler laments, “So can you understand / Why I want a daughter while I’m still young? / I want to hold her hand / And show her some beauty / Before all this damage is done.” The band’s targets range from that hopelessly run rat race to the suburban megachurch-dominated religious scene with lyrics like, “You never trust a millionaire / Quoting the sermon on the mount / I used to think I was not like them / But I’m beginning to have my doubts / My doubts about it.” And, of course, there’s always the neverending sprawl (“Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small / Then we can never get away from the sprawl / Living in the sprawl / The dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains / And there’s no end in sight / I need the darkness. Someone please cut the lights!”). This is, without a doubt, my album of the year. It touches deep down in my psyche, for I’ve struggled some time with our decision to live in the suburbs instead of the city, feeling like I don’t belong here, that there is no place here for me. The endless traffic and big box stores and chain restaurants, the fear and hatred and exclusionary tactics go beyond merely bothering me, they hurt me, they scar me, they leave me wanting to escape the clutches of the sprawl.
Yet all is not so terrible, no, everyone does not buy into the stories, not everyone finds themselves destroyed by the “businessmen that drink my blood.” As is true anywhere in any city or suburb or country town that you may find yourself in, there is a reason to go on and it is one that does not involve mcmansions or illusions of safety or churches that look like football stadiums. Friends. Love. Relationships. That is what matters. In the end, you may say as Arcade Fire does, “If I could have it back / All the time we wasted / I’d only waste it again / If I could have it back / You know I would love to waste it again.” Time with the ones you love, even time in which you do nothing at all, is never wasted. The new chapter of my story is a happy one so far, one in which relationships are being built and even if it happens in the endless sprawl, that is okay. The time will not be wasted.
Like I said before, this album really struck a chord with me. It has stuck with me and haunted me ever since I first listened to it. If there is one album you buy this year, make it this one.
The Big Memphis To-Do September 20, 2010Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: concert recap, drive-by truckers, fan dedication, Memphis, Mike Cooley, Minglewood Hall, Patteson Hood, setlist
As I mentioned in last night’s entry, Friday’s Drive-By Truckers show was excellent, another great one that I was glad to be able to see. We arrived at Minglewood Hall in Midtown Memphis in time to hear the last few songs from the opening band, The Henry Clay People, including an upbeat, punkish cover of “Born to Run” that ended their set. They sounded pretty good and I’ll probably check out some of their other stuff, but they were merely the appetizer for the main course that lay ahead.
DBT walked onto the stage about 9:15 and, following Patterson Hood’s dedication to my friend Chris, they launched into “The Living Bubba.” The band was in fine form all night, with Hood and Mike Cooley trading vocal duties on a regular basis and Shonna Tucker taking over for only one song later in the set, “It’s Gonna Be” I Told You So. As usual, the set was high-energy and fun, with the band expending a great deal of sweat and energy while pounding through song after song of Southern life, their buzzsaw three guitar attack slicing through the air of anticipation and excitement.
Following “Bubba,” the pounding drum beat of concert staple “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” filled the room and somehow the building kept from falling in around us from the earth-shaking loudness. Hood and Cooley are former Memphis residents, a fact that they always bring up on their stops in the Bluff City and that sometimes pops up in some of their songs. The most noticeable of these is probably “The Night GG Allin Came to Town,” which they didn’t play in this most recent show, but they did do “Birthday Boy,” which Mike Cooley claimed happened in Memphis during a show earlier this year and, “The Wig He Made Her Wear,” their take on the Church of Christ preacher murder in nearby Selmer, Tennessee.
Other highlights included the incredible, “Drag the Lake, Charlie,” with it’s heavy and unforgettable riff, the early catalog favorite, “Love Like This,” and the trilogy of favorites ending the first set: “Zip City,” “Sink Hole,” and “Puttin’ People on the Moon.” Another interesting piece was one I had never heard before, a song called “Everybody Needs Love,” by the late Eddie Hinton, a Muscle Shoals songwriter and studio musician.
The encore was similar to past shows, but still an excellent set nonetheless. They began with a new song set for release on their next album, “Ray’s Automatic Weapon,” followed by “Gravity’s Gone,” and the rocking medley of their “Buttholeville” and Springsteen’s “State Trooper.” They then blazed through the final three tunes of the night, “Shut Up and Get on the Plane,” “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy,” and “People Who Died,” with voices and bodies that were ragged and spent, tearing through each number to the jubilation of the sweaty throng of Trucker fans, before finally bowing out after some 2.5 hours of sweet Southern madness.
It was another incredible show.
Below is the complete setlist, as compiled by my aforementioned friend Chris.
-Dedication to Chris and Keith
The Living Bubba
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
-Murder speech from Patterson Hood
The Wig He Made Her Wear
3 Dimes Down
Drag the Lake Charlie
Love Like This
A Ghost to Most
Women without Whiskey
-Intro to song by Eddie Hinton
Everybody Needs Love
(It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So
After the Scene Dies
Puttin’ People on the Moon
-Hood talks about living in Memphis and announces a new song from the upcoming album
Ray Automatic Weapon
Buttholeville – State Trooper
Shut Up and Get on the Plane
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
People Who Died
Seriously, if you still haven’t seen DBT in concert, you need to reevaluate your life.
The Living Bubba September 19, 2010Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: drive-by truckers, Memphis, song dedication, The Living Bubba
I’ll have a complete recap of Friday’s Drive-By Truckers concert tomorrow, but for now I want to tell you about a particular episode dealing with the show, one that was quite poignant and special and that raised my affection for the band to an even higher level.
That evening before the show I drove over to the Midtown home of my friend Chris to join with him and some other friends, Berry and Meredith, so that we could go to the concert hall together. We had some time before the show began, so we stood around in the backyard for a while, nursing beers and catching up on life in general. It was all general pleasantries at first, but then Chris told us about something that put a whole new spin on the night.
Chris: I emailed them earlier this week.
I looked at him quizzically, not exactly sure what he was talking about.
Chris: The Truckers. I emailed them and I got responses.
Now my interest was even more piqued, but I was still in the dark and he could see that, so he told us the story.
Chris: I had a close friend, Keith, who died last month from AIDS. So, last night at midnight, I thought ‘What the hell?’ and I sent emails to every address I could find on their site asking if they would play “The Living Bubba” in his memory. In a short time I heard back from three reps for the band and they said they would pass my request on.
He then went on to tell us all about his friend of the past 14 years and about his life-ending struggle with AIDS. At some point Keith moved to Colorado and in his final weeks Chris made a trip out to see him. While there he introduced this song, by the Drive-By Truckers, to him.
There is a lot more to the story that I’m not going to go into, partly because I don’t remember the details and partly because it isn’t my story to tell, but at the end of his remembrances it became obvious that Chris was at peace over his friend’s death. In his words, he grieved for two difficult weeks before moving on with his life with a sense of calm acceptance. It was one of those moments in which the words seem to hang in the air, suspended in time as the listeners (at least me) struggle with what to say next.
Soon our meeting adjourned and we headed the short distance to Minglewood Hall. I’ll go into more detail about the actual show in my recap, but when the Truckers hit the stage, the first words out of singer Patterson Hood’s mouth were, “This one is for Chris and Keith.”
The shout of jubilation from our small group would have been deafening if the rest of the crowd had not begun their beginning-of-the-show cheering at the same time. They did it. They actually did it.
Chris was all smiles, jumping up and down with his fists in the air, yelling at the top of his lungs and I realized that moment, that one transcendent tick in time marked something special, something that would live in a man’s memory forever. It was cathartic and beautiful and a really special thing to pay witness to.
The band then launched into “The Living Bubba,” an early song in the Truckers’ catalog about their friend, Gregory Dean Smalley, who died of AIDS back in the 90’s. The song is told from the perspective of Smalley as he is nearing the end of his life, punctuating every few lines with the refrain, “I can’t die now ‘cause I got another show to do.”
My respect for the band grew greatly that night as well, for there are probably very few artists out there who would respond to a fan’s email in that way, not just playing the requested song but doing it as the show opener. I was completely blown away.
This isn’t from the show we saw, but it is a video of them playing the song. Enjoy.
Free Music Friday: Drive-By Truckers September 17, 2010Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: Daddy Learned to Fly, drive-by truckers, live
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I know you probably get tired of me singing the praises of DBT, but you’ll have to deal with it again today. I’m going to see them perform again tonight and I’m sure it will be another great show. Here’s a live version of one of their newer songs, “Daddy Learned to Fly.” Enjoy.
Random Five: Drive-By Truckers September 16, 2010Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: best songs, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, concert, Decoration Day, drive-by truckers, Memphis, Southern Rock Opera, The Big To-Do, The Dirty South
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It’s no secret to anyone who has been reading the various iterations of this blog over the past 5 years that I’m a huge fan of the Drive-By Truckers, and have been for the better part of a decade. I’ve long praised their dark tales of life in the American South, while collecting all of their recordings and seeing them perform live five times or so. I had a chance to catch them earlier this year at the Beale Street Music Festival, which was fine, but due to time constraints, it was a bit more condensed than other times – particularly when compared to the incredible 3.5 hour monstrosity I was able to witness a few years ago. Well, tomorrow night I’ll have the opportunity to see them again on their latest trip through Memphis and I must say that I’m already near bursting with excitement. Their live shows are so energetic and insane, so loud and jarring that they blow nearly everyone else completely away. When you have the chance, make sure you go see them.
That being the case, I thought I would give you my five favorite DBT albums today. Let me know what you think.
5. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
2008’s Brighter is probably the most country music-oriented album in their catalog, with some tunes (“Lisa’s Birthday”) displaying a full blast of that old school country style. This one also marks, for better or worse, the first album with Shonna Tucker, the replacement for the great Jason Isbell, on bass.
4. The Big To-Do
DBT’s most recent release takes a step back into the more hard-edged southern rock stylings of their earlier albums, a genre that seems to work best for them. With the exception of a few songs written by Shonna that I don’t really care for, it is a very good album, particularly on the heavy riff of “Drag the Lake Charlie” and Patterson Hood’s “The Fourth Night of My Drinking.” This was also their highest charting album to date, coming in at #22 on the US charts.
3. Decoration Day
This 2003 release was the first DBT album I bought and it was a great one to start with, it’s overriding themes of family and death fitting perfectly into the canon. Though the rocking “Sinkhole” is still a concert favorite, Jason Isbell is the real hero on this album, contributing perhaps two of their best songs, “Outfit” and “Decoration Day.”
2. The Dirty South
The follow-up to Decoration Day showed the Truckers delving even farther into the dark nature of life in the South, with more songs about death, family, and lovelorn tragedies. “Puttin’ People on the Moon” is a particularly damning take on NASA’s presence in Huntsville, Alabama, and it’s effect on the people of the region and “Where the Devil Don’t Say” is an excellent concert rocker, but again it is Isbell’s heartsick album closer “God**** Lonely Love” that rules this one.
1. Southern Rock Opera
There are few, if any, albums in the history of Southern Rock that encapsulate life in Dixie the way this one does. When Hood sings of the “duality of the Southern Thing” it makes sense, the good and bad of the South holding separate portions on the scales of life. This album, though, belongs to lead guitarist and co-founder (along with Hood) Mike Cooley, who contributes my all-time favorite DBT song, “Zip City.” It’s really a great album, one of my favorites of the entire decade and I would strongly urge all of you to check it out.
In case you don’t want to buy full albums, I have also decided to give you a bonus with today’s random five: A must-have DBT playlist of 20 songs that you should hear given in album order.
18 Wheels of Love (from Gangstabilly)
Why Henry Drinks (from Gangstabilly)
The Company I Keep (from Pizza Deliverance)
Love Like This (from Pizza Deliverance)
The Southern Thing (from Southern Rock Opera)
Zip City (from Southern Rock Opera)
Let There Be Rock (from Southern Rock Opera)
Guitar Man Upstairs (from Southern Rock Opera)
The Deeper In (from Decoration Day)
Sink Hole (from Decoration Day)
Outfit (from Decoration Day)
Where the Devil Don’t Stay (from The Dirty South)
Puttin’ People on the Moon (from The Dirty South)
God**** Lonely Love (from The Dirty South)
Aftermath USA (from A Blessing and a Curse)
The Righteous Path (from Brighter than Creation’s Dark)
A Ghost to Most (from Brighter than Creation’s Dark)
The Fourth Night of My Drinking (from The Big To-Do)
Drag the Lake Charlie (from The Big To-Do)
Birthday Boy (from The Big To-Do)
The Best of 2010…So Far – Part 2 June 30, 2010Posted by Matt in Best of 2010.
Tags: Best of 2010, Broken Bells, Carolina Chocolate Drops, drive-by truckers, josh ritter, MGMT, music, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Black Keys, The Dead Weather, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady
10. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig
As you are probably aware by now, I like a lot of music that resides somewhere outside the mainstream, whether that be the return of an old style or the creation of a new one, so when I heard about the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an all-black, old time string band that plays a wide variety of music – from traditional tunes to hip-hop favorites – I was intrigued to say the least. When my dad gave me a copy of this, their latest album, I quickly became a fan. Needless to say, you won’t hear anything else like this anywhere else.
Download: Hit ‘Em Up Style, Cornbread and Butterbeans, Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine
9. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
There aren’t very many producers that can induce me to buy an album, but Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) is one of them. I’ve been intrigued with his work ever since his strange and very cool mash-up of Jay-Z’s Black Album with The Beatles’ White Album, and since that time he has worked on fantastic albums by Gorillaz, The Black Keys, Beck, and others, not to mention his own great project, Gnarls Barkley. So, with everything he touches seeming to turn to gold, this collaboration with The Shins’ James Mercer was a must-get, and let me tell you, it was worth it. Mixing Mercer’s voice, which fits so well in the melodic context of The Shins, with experimental hip-hop beats was a stroke of genius. I’ll be returning to this one far more than I will The Shins’ albums that I own.
Download: The High Road, The Ghost Inside, Vaporize
8. MGMT – Congratulations
MGMT’s debut album, Oracular Spectacular, was a gargantuan success, spawning several hit songs (“Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel,” etc.) and breaking the band into the mainstream in a big way. While their sophomore release does not have the recognizable singles of its predecessor, it may be an even better overall album. Their sound is a trippy, psychedelic ride that flows with ease from one song to the next for the entire duration of the album. It is truly an experience not to be missed.
Download: It’s Working, Flash Delirium, and really just download the whole thing. It’s worth it.
7. Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
Josh Ritter’s prior two releases, Animal Songs and The Historic Conquests of Josh Ritter, have been among my favorites in the respective years of their release. His songwriting ability is superb, placing him near or at the top of my generation, and earning him comparisons to other greats like Bruce Springsteen. Though I cannot say I like his latest release as much as the past two or three, but it is still very, very good. His easy voice and fingerpicked guitar make for the perfect accompaniment in a stressful work environment.
Download: The Curse, Southern Pacifica, Folk Bloodbath
6. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
Every album release from DBT is an event for fans like me, who collect all of the works of this greatest among Southern rock bands and make a point to see them each and every time they play a nearby show (next one: September). Though the band has undergone a few personnel changes over the years, core members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley remain and continue to produce some of the best music coming out of Dixie. Their songs tell tales from the dark side of life in the South, with tales of people suffering in a floundering economy, death, and a certain Tennessee preacher’s wife who shot her husband dead. It’s another triumph for the band and I’m really looking forward to seeing this fall for the 6th time.
Download: Birthday boy, Drag the Lake Charlie, The Wig He Made Her Wear
5. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
I became a huge fan of The Hold Steady following their incredible 2008 release, Stay Positive, and have been ever since, picking up the majority of the back catalog and listening to it incessantly. Though this one sounds a bit cleaner and less bar band-like, than their past releases, it still makes for one heck of a listen. From their slower-than-normal, almost country sounding opener, through the rest of the album, the band utilizes frontman Craig Finn’s gift for storytelling to weave tale after tale of real life, creating a Springsteen-esque (the 2nd of 3 Bruce references in this blog entry) tapestry of regular people struggling to get by. Oh, and I’m planning on going to see them at the Hi-Tone next month. I have no doubt it will be awesome.
Download: Hurricane J, The Weekenders, We Can Get Together
4. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
It is quite interesting that we can point to so many artists today as having been greatly influenced by Bruce Springsteen, but that is probably no more apparent than with The Gaslight Anthem, whose sound I described in 2008, following the release of the fantastic That ’59 Sound, as a “young Springsteen fronting The Clash.” Their latest release is another incredible work, melding the blue collar ethic of The Boss with their punk sensibilities into something that you just can’t put away. It’s a catchy blast of New Jersey garage rock that you can’t help but love.
Download: American Slang, Stay Lucky, The Queen of Lower Chelsea
3. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
All hail Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, for they come to us bearing a wonderful gift, one that we may not have even realized we were missing. Jones & company have resurrected an Aretha-like soul and R&B sound, and they’ve done it in a suberb way. The Brooklyn-based band reportedly shun modern digital recording equipment in favor of analog, to ensure their retro sound. I absolutely love this album and when I start playing it I just can’t stop. Believe me, you need to check this out.
Download: The Game Gets Old, I Learned the Hard Way, Money
2. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Let me be up front about this: I will be a lifelong fan of Jack White and everything he touches. This album is the best non-White Stripes recording he has been a part of. The entire work rocks from beginning to end, with heavy blues-based guitar riffs, pounding drums, and some killer songs combining into an excellent whole. White and Alison Mosshart (of The Kills) share vocal duties in a howling, shrieking morass of awesomeness. My favorite line by White: “All the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service.” Awesome. Now I only wish I had been able to see them when they played Memphis a few months ago…
Download: Die By the Drop, Blue Blood Blues, The Difference Between Us
1. The Black Keys – Brothers
Psychedelic blues-rock duo The Black Keys have done it – they’ve created a masterpiece. I love everything the Keys have done, from the heavy blues of Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory to the Danger Mouse-produced Attack & Release and everything in between, but this album is just flat-out incredible. They retain some of their blues sensibilities while continuing to expand their sound far beyond anything that seems humanly possible for just two people, one with a drum set and one with a guitar. To add to the coolness, my 7 year old daughter thinks vocalist Dan Auerbach sounds like Prince on some songs. Just turn this one up loud, and I mean loud, and enjoy it.
Download: Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Tighten Up, She’s Long Gone