Drive-By Truckers: Alabama Ass Whuppin’

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By Kevin Oliver

This disc is subtitled, “Live and loud way down in Georgia, 1999”, and that sums up the rocking redneck roar of these raucous roots-rock raconteurs from Athens, Georgia. DBT’s leader Patterson Hood calls people like Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd his heroes, and his band’s ragged rock indeed owes a debt to those quintessential southern boys, as well as the feedback-laden work of Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Smarter than your average beer, the DBT’s appeal lies in their application of incisive, observant lyrics atop the kind of churning boogie that even a ZZ Top fan could appreciate. The band’s masterpiece, “The Living Bubba”, is an unblinking look at the larger-than-life Gregory Dean Smalley, a denizen of the Atlanta music scene who died of AIDS. That song is the centerpiece of this album, but it is flanked by some of the band’s many other highlights. “Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)” is a typical Hood lyric, corny on the surface but closer to the truth than those it lampoons would want to admit. “Don’t Be In Love Around Me”, is one of their earliest songs, yet it already showed their synthesis of hard rock and country music in complete fashion.

This collection is a hodgepodge of live recordings from various locations in Georgia, including Tasty World, The High Hat, Caledonia Lounge, and The 40 Watt in Athens, and The Star Bar in Atlanta. All of the mixes are loud and clear, with Hood’s cathartic vocal delivery front and center and the band, especially lead guitarist Mike Cooley, blazing away behind him. The live setting is kinder to the band than the studio has been on their previous recordings, which were good but lacking the fire in abundance here.

Many bands in the past such as Drivin N Cryin and Jason & The Scorchers have played both harder rock tunes and traditional country sounds, but for the most part those groups confined them to separate songs. What the DBT’s have done is combine them, for an overall result that updates the southern rock heroes of their youth with a wry wit that has enough sense to laugh at itself.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/drivebytruckers-alabama/