Artwork by CHUCK SPERRY
The Drive-By Truckers have a well-earned rep for consistently delivering grungy Southern rock operas set in places where red meets neck, 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. Where dubious characters — jaded pole workers, homicidal preachers’ wives, and modern drunkards — lead self-inflicted lives of quiet desperation 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. It also bears mentioning that the Drive-By Truckers totally rock, more specifically they rock in that sweet spot where Lynyrd meets Skynyrd.
The Alabama Shakes sound like Exiles On Main Street with Aretha Franklin on lead vocals and Jagger on coke and tambourine. Or Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashing into the Big Brother and the Holding Company’s tour bus. Can’t decide which, maybe a little of both? Formed in 2009 in Athens, Alabama — often referred to as the Athens of Alabama — by a postal worker, a nuclear plant night watchmen, an animal clinic worker and a house painter as a viable alternative to watching the cars rust, which was the prevailing pastime in Athens at the time. Having weathered a dues-paying, teeth-cutting purgatory of sports bars and country dives, the Shakes began building buzz when the breathless blogger hype proved not just believable but vastly understated. Their 2012 debut, Boys And Girls, blew huge smoking holes in the notion that you simply cannot make it in this business dressed in neckbeards and cat lady glasses no matter how possessed you play or how transcendental the sound you make. The new Sound And Color is almost certainly the best album released this year or next. Plus Clooney’s on their side.
— JONATHAN VALANIA