Drive-By Truckers: The Dirty South: Live at the 40 Watt [DVD]

Adrien Begrand

Drive-by Truckers

The Dirty South: Live at the 40 Watt [DVD]

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2005-03-22
UK Release Date: 2005-04-04
Amazon affiliate

With five superb studio albums behind them, the Drive-By Truckers have emerged as one of the finest American rock bands of the past decade, as each release not only has been met with critical acclaim, but has resulted in a steadily growing fanbase. Late '90s records Gangstabilly and Pizza Deliverance were two fine examples of pure, unadulterated, rough-hewn rock 'n' roll, brimming with rowdiness, sincerity, humor, and passion. 2001's epic double album Southern Rock Opera had the Athens, Georgia band coming into their own, a highly ambitious, and ultimately very meditation on life, love, rock music, and what leader Patterson Hood describes as "the duality of the Southern thing". Subsequent releases have proved to be just as strong, be it the pensive, brooding, emotionally raw Decoration Day, or the amped-up ferocity of The Dirty South. As good as each and every one of those albums are, though, longtime followers of the band always tell new listeners, "If you think the album is good, just wait 'til you see them live."

It's time for me to fess up: I have never had the chance to see the Drive-By Truckers live. Yeah, for all their touring (they average more than 200 shows per year), the band still has yet to play every nook and cranny of North America, and those fans who were unable to witness the long, exhausting, beer-drenched, three hour marathons that the Drive-By Truckers consistently deliver, have been left to rely upon the outstanding 1999 live document Alabama Ass Whuppin', not to mention a multitude of bootleg shows easily available on bit torrent, for examples of the real concert experience.

For a band with a reputation as being one of the most potent live acts around, it was only inevitable that someone tried to capture that energy on film, and over the course of two nights in late August, 2004, a camera crew squeezed into the crowded confines of the 40 Watt club in Athens and did just that. Recorded during a two-night stand celebrating the release of The Dirty South last summer, the uproariously fun The Dirty South: Live at the 40 Watt is everything fans expect a Drive-By Truckers DVD to be: raw, sweaty, and loud.

Featuring several hand-held video cameras, as well as a couple stationary ones, the concert film does not have the best picture quality, as images tend to be grainy and the lighting in the small club is rather dim most of the time, but the dicey visuals seem a perfect match with the sound, once the band kicks into high gear. Excellently produced by longtime DBT engineer (and former member of Sugar) David Barbe, the audio captures the energy of the music very well, the roaring five channel surround mix especially worth hearing. Being a CD release party, the band places heavy emphasis on The Dirty South, and they obviously relish playing the new stuff, as "Where the Devil Don't Stay", "The Day John Henry Died", "Goddamn Lonely Love", and "Lookout Mountain" all benefit greatly from the live treatment. What older material the band plays is met with joyous responses from the crowd, as the entire crowd sings along to such songs as "Sinkhole" and "The Southern Thing". As great as the newer material sounds, the real highlights come later on, first with the awe-inspiring live staple "The Living Bubba", and then on the special "Encore" section of the DVD, where guitarist Jason Isbell delivers a great rendition of Decoration Day favorite "Outfit" (again, with the crowd singing every word), and Hood leading an absolutely searing cover of Jim Carroll's punk classic "People Who Died".

The concert film is interspersed with interview segments, and while this tactic often brings concert DVDs to a crashing halt, the clips are brief enough to not be much of a distraction at all (plus, it's fun to see guitarist Mike Cooley preside over a wedding between two fans onstage). Although it would have been better to include the five-song "Encore" section in the main film, and the sloppy continuity is a bit on the distracting side (here's a hint: when filming a concert DVD over two nights, wear the same outfits!), those are only minor complaints. The loose, friendly atmosphere the band conveys is palpable; while it's not quite the length of a usual Drive-By Truckers show, this big ol' mess of a DVD has nonetheless been worth the wait.





Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.


'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.


Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.


Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.


Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.


Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.


12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.