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    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Drive-By Truckers @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, 10-8-06

    David Gordon Green. Cormac McCarthy. The Drive-By Truckers. Each, in their own medium, has newly expanded the vision of the South, complicating a region that’s too often reduced to hee-haw simplicity. Each of them considers and questions Southern identity, but they also proudly claim it. They commemorate the highs but acknowledge the lows. It’s a delicate balancing act that’s produced some pretty thoughtful art. What makes the Drive-By Truckers’ vision all the more compelling is how much they rock doing it.

    I was really busy during Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, but was determined to catch the band as my third and last set of the festival. Ducking and dodging my way to the front of the field, I was surprised by how quickly Northern California seemed to vanish. Cowboy hats and trucker hats topped most of the heads around me. Beltbuckles and boots suddenly came into vogue. Someone was flapping a Confederate flag through the air. The prevalent smells were cigarettes and domestic beer.

    Then the DBTs arrived and tore right in. Like a Cerberus of Alabama rock ‘n roll, they have three singer-songwriters, Patterson Hood, Jason Ibell and Mike Cooley, who trade off on lead duties. Hood, whose songs I generally like the least, was the biggest rock star, stomping the ground and twirling his guitar around like a prom date. He seemed to be having the time of his life, and the crowd was all too eager to reciprocate the enthusiasm. All three men had cigarettes poking out of their lips and threw back swigs from bottlenecks. Ibell’s wife, Shonna Tucker, held her own on the bass as her hair continually flapped into her face.

    The set was altogether wonderful, fitting in a few introspective songs among the straight-up Skynyrd rock. Ibell’s ruminating "Decoration Day" was a definite highlight, at least as good live as it is on record. I actually got chills when he sang, "They’ve never seen my Daddy’s grave/ but that don’t bother me, it ain’t marked anyway." And Cooley, boasting the most unique voice among the three, also shined on “Gravity’s Gone,” far and away my favorite song on their new album.

    My friends Colin and Jess arrived midway through the performance; the three of us moved up to a hill overlooking the crowd. The sun spilled over us and onto the straw heads of a hundred cowboys dancing. Jess, herself from southwestern Virginia, was wearing a camouflage T-shirt that read "Don’t Mess With U.S." and had a buff Ronald Reagan boxing a Russian. It was a fitting outfit, both a rejection of flag-waving patriotism and a reveling in it. Lately, she’s been creating an extensive art piece examining her Appalachian home, eager to add a sentence to the rich Southern conversation that the Drive-By Truckers spoke so fluently that day.

    The DBTs perform "Gravity's Gone"

    * MP3: "Decoration Day" - The Drive-By Truckers from Decoration Day [Buy it]
    * MP3: "The Boys From Alabama" - The Drive-By Truckers from The Dirty South [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)" - The Drive-By Truckers from Alabama Ass Whuppin' [Buy it]
    * Band Website: Drive-By Truckers

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    Comments on "Drive-By Truckers @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, 10-8-06"


    Blogger FrankR said ... (10:30 PM) : 

    Great performance! My first time seeing the DBT, and I was blown away.....
    Lots of recordings from this festival have shown up, but I can't seem to find a recording of the DBT set of 10/8/06. Where can I find this?


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