If you’ve listened to my show, Bittersweet Melody, you know that Drive-by Truckers are one of my favorite bands. No one band represents the South in today’s rock world more than Drive-by Truckers. The band, most of whom were raised in Alabama, have released 9 studio albums over their 15 year history (not including a collection of B-sides). They’ll be in town at the Pageant this Friday, October 28. Here I rank my 10 favorite Drive-by Trucker songs. Hope you enjoy it, y’all.
10. “Lookout Mountain” – “The Dirty South” (2004)
A staple of the Truckers live show for years, this song finally made it to vinyl on the 3rd album of the Truckers Southern trilogy. An incendiary live song. Let this song wash over you at the show this Friday.
9. “Decoration Day” – “Decoration Day” (2003)
Jason Isbell was in the Drive-by Truckers for only 3 albums. Despite the fact he was limited to no more than 3 songs on each album, he made them count. “Decoration Day” is a tour de force of family pride and Southern feuds. Think the legend of the Hatfields & McCoys in a song.
8. “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” – “The Dirty South” (2004)
The songwriting tandem of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley make up the majority of the Trucker’s songs over their run. And I make no apologies for my love of Mike Cooley, a born story teller with a knack for brilliant wordplay. From the opening bass drum this powerful song about a son gleaning knowledge from his moonshining Dad in the Prohibition-era South melts faces. With lyrics like “Daddy tell me another story … tell me why the ones who have so much make the ones who don't go mad”, one can’t help but hope to hear an answer.
7. “The Righteous Path” – “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” (2008)
A Patterson Hood original. Released in January 2008, eight months before the hard fall of the financial system and the beginning of the recession, lines like “More bills than money, I can do the math / I’m trying to keep focused on the righteous path” and “We’re trying the best we can to keep keeping on / We got messed up minds for these messed up times / And it’s a thin thin line separating his from mine”, one can’t help but wonder if Patterson knew something the rest of us didn’t.
6. “Women Without Whiskey” – “Southern Rock Opera” (2001)
From their third album, a double-album that opened the door to the Trucker’s success and quite possibly my favorite album of the ‘00’s, comes this Mike Cooley song. Describing an alcoholic who knows it and doesn’t plan to stop drinking any time soon, a great rock song emerges …
5. “Let There Be Rock” – “Southern Rock Opera” (2001)
Another Patterson Hood song. This one is an ode to the music that he grew up with on his high school’s parking lot. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchett, and AC/DC are all mentioned lovingly. Even the late Randy Rhoads gets a shout out. A great rock song in the rock tradition. I can’t hear this one enough.
4. “One of These Days” – “Pizza Deliverance” (1999)
From the Truckers second album and one of my favorite Mike Cooley originals comes one of my favorite opening lines … “If I had a dime for every time / I heard my old man say one of these days / I wouldn’t be like my old man today.” If you’re new to the Truckers, go back and find this album for this song and my #2 song.
3. “Outfit” – “Decoration Day” (2003)
Another Jason Isbell original. This one written as a Father’s Day gift focusing on the advice given to Jason Isbell, mostly from his father. The Truckers don’t play Jason Isbell songs live so you’ll have to see Jason Isbell when he comes to town to hear this one. It will be worth it.
2. “Uncle Frank” – “Pizza Deliverance” (1999)
A song written about the broken promises of the TVA in the South. Mike Cooley’s narratives can sometimes seem like a novel packed into a 5-minute song … which leads me to #1.
1. “Zip City” – “Southern Rock Opera” (2001)
Easily my favorite DBT song. Themes from escaping small town life to hypocrisy to class to young lust and freedom all compete in this incredible song. Lyrics like “Keep your drawers on girl / It ain’t worth the fight / By the time you drop them I’ll be gone / and you’ll be right where they fall / the rest of your life” place this song as one of my favorites. But, listen to the lyrics or not, this is a great song and one I can’t wait to hear this Friday.
So, what are some of your favorites I missed?