The Drive-By Truckers write songs about the dirty South, where life is hard and folks die soft and squishy and often emphysemic, dirty deeds get done dirt cheap, and everyone goes to church but nobody really goes to heaven. Their songs are like the weeds in the cracks of the trailer park, or the pile of broken beer bottles in the woods, or the lipstick traces on the stubbed-out Kools overflowing the ashtray. Oh, the things they have seen. The Truckers have two main singer-songwriter-guitarists these days: Patterson Hood, burly and bearded, whose voice sounds alternately like an angry Neil Young or a stoned Don Henley; and Mike Cooley, a tall drink of water who bears a passing resemblance to Townes Van Zandt, and sings like a honky-tonk Mick Jagger. It goes without saying that both these gentlemen totally shred as axemen. It also bears mentioning that the Drive-By Truckers totally rock, more specifically they rock in that sweet spot where Lynyrd meets Skynyrd. Not for nothing is their new album called Alabama Ass Whuppin’. They have a well-earned rep for consistently delivering grungy Southern gothic rock operas set in places where red meets neck, where dubious characters lead self-inflicted lives of quiet desperation — unanswered prayers, unrequited love, and unmitigated semiprivate disasters — sketching out the private hells of jaded pole workers, homicidal preachers’ wives, and modern drunkards in high-def whiskey-hued vérité. Everyone’s on something – booze, pills, God, or all the above – and before all is said and done, they’re gonna have to drag the lake. — JONATHAN VALANIA
Like all their best Drive-By Trucker songs, “Puttin’ People On The Moon” pieces together the extraordinary wreckage of ordinary lives.Sung by Patterson Hood in the first person, it’s about an Alabama Wal-Mart clerk forced to sell dope to pay for his wife’s chemo. Ain’t that America?