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Gangstabilly

Drive-By Truckers

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Album Review

The Drive-By Truckers don't need an agenda to be a good band. Sure, Southern Rock Opera more or less anointed the Truckers as a smarter, more attentive Lynyrd Skynyrd, and critics, in turn, made them famous for all the wrong reasons. And while critics tossed around adjectives like "brash" and "raunchy" and dug out their riffs on Southern rock revival and the renovation of country, Gangstabilly, DBT's debut, went largely overlooked. No mock-rock operas or anxious, insistent Southernism here — Gangstabilly keeps its charm by keeping it simple. Whereas post-Pizza Deliverance DBT tended to veer into weathered tailgate-party twang, Gangstabilly is a swamp of mushy drums, scraggly acoustics, and pedal-steel whimper — a catalog of trashy but telling details and broader yet personal pangs. NASCAR, monster-truck rallies, and countless episodes of COPS and America Undercover have melted the South down into a handful of stereotypes. But if frontman Patterson Hood has shown anything, all you have to do to cut through the velvet Elvis/TV rodeo/Haffenreffer muck of white-trash clichés is simply treat them seriously. While DBT retain a campy sensibility to distance themselves from their songs, the Truckers' South doesn't come without its share of loss and hardship. Take "Wifebeater," the album's opener. The title explains it all, but the subject matter is accepted as part of life, rendered like a conventional love song — "Don't go back to him, he's a wife beater." The drums lurch, the pedal steel rises like steam, the harmonies go bullfrog-croak low, and Hood puts you inside a would-be dismissed act of domestic violence. Then, there's "Panties in Your Purse" — a title which tells a whole newly painful story of a night of drinkin' and cheatin' in and of itself. But perhaps more than any song in their back catalog, "The Living Bubba" perfects the Truckers' combination of tough but hurt. Dedicated to the late Atlanta guitarist Gregory Dean Smalley, "The Living Bubba" comes through with an introverted, slowly ascending verse and a chorus you can flick a Bic to. Bottom line: do yourself a favor and don't ignore this album. The sad songs are sad the way you want them to be, the ballsier songs tempered with a little mellow manly pain. After Gangstabilly, the Drive-By Truckers would provide good albums, sure, but they'd be of the Napster-good sort, the buy-it-used sort. But for a brief moment, the Drive-By Truckers created something whose praise wouldn't come by default, that wouldn't play immediately into critics' expectations. Gangstabilly was a thankless job, but a good one. ~Bill Peters, Rovi

Customer Reviews

good stuff

A sign of things to come. Not as polished as the newer stuff but why would it be... Great stuff as usual from the Truckers.

Authentic sauce

Possibly, the most authentic piece of songwriting I've ever heard. Well done.

Biography

Formed: 1996 in Athens, GA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Boasting a mix of Southern pride, erudite lyrics, and a muscled three-guitar attack, Drive-By Truckers became one of the most well-respected alternative country-rock acts of the 2000s. Led by frontman Patterson Hood and featuring a rotating cast of Georgia and Alabama natives, the band celebrated the South while refusing to paint over its spotty past. History, folklore, politics, and character studies all shared equal space in the Truckers catalog, which offered up its first blast of gutsy, twangy...
Full Bio

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