Release Date: Sep 30, 2016
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Hard Rock, Alternative Country-Rock, Southern Rock
As Joe Strummer once proclaimed: "This is a public service announcement with guitars. "A politically supercharged collection of songs by one of America's most consistently rewarding bands would be welcome in any year, but Drive-By Truckers' American Band is all the more valuable at this fraught moment. Imagine a rock'n'roll record featuring staggering songs about the Black Lives Matter movement ("What It Means"), school shootings ("Guns of Umpqua"), the Mexican border ("Ramon Casiano"), slut-shaming ("Filthy and Fried"), depression ("Baggage"), and political chicanery ("Kinky Hypocrite") all played with shaggy barroom abandon; now imagine that the album is made by a bunch of unapologetically Southern American white men, the kind of "blue-eyed Southern devils" a century of stereotyping has trained liberals — everyone, really — to mistrust.
“Don't look to me for answers/'Cause I don't know what it means,” Patterson Hood wearily intones near the end of “What It Means,” the most straightforward protest song Drive-By Truckers have ever recorded. He's singing about Black Lives Matter, police violence, and the latest incarnations of America's legacy of racial prejudice and oppression that have dominated the news in recent years. Given the complexity of and animus surrounding these issues, such an admission would hardly seem strange coming from virtually anyone else.
Southern rockers smash a home run. The old idea that rock music could change the world isn’t spoken about much these days. The USA in the year of Trump, though, has inspired Drive-By Truckers to make this lacerating denunciation of the state of their nation, which stands right up there with Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and their own best work. ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads Patterson Hood and Troy Cooley sound like they’ve finally had enough of this shit.
Review Summary: Compelled but not defeatedSo many of the problems of our time can boil down to a failure to communicate. To talk to each other. To ask the tough questions of ourselves. To open up our hearts and minds to seek a higher calling. To summon better angels, as they say. Or as the prophet ….
Drive-By Truckers picked a nice time to come up with one of their sharpest assessments yet of what co-leader Patterson Hood once called "the Southern Thing." American Band is a Southern liberal's attempt to puzzle through the emulsified white working class alienation and resentment that's been endlessly cited as a force driving the rise of Donald Trump. The Confederate flag, Iraq, the NRA, immigration hysteria and other hot buttons are pushed, but Hood and fellow songwriter Mike Cooley rarely go in for sloganeering. Instead, they use empathy, vivid storytelling and subtle imagery to unpack brutal complexities.
From their breakthrough album (2001's Southern Rock Opera) onward, the Drive-By Truckers have never shied away from dealing with the political and philosophical divides that come with life in the American South. But as issues of race, violence, and the failings of the electoral process have come to dominate the national conversation in 2016, the Drive-By Truckers have responded with their most explicitly political album to date. American Band contains a dozen songs that deal with familiar themes for this band in some respects, but instead of pondering "the Southern Thing," these are stories that confront all sides of a great but troubled nation, as racism means not just the mixed message of the rebel flag but the unjust death of Trayvon Martin, and one tries to come to terms with the many ways our culture is slowly changing in some ways and stubbornly refusing to evolve in others.
Drive-By Truckers have called their eleventh studio album, American Band, protest music, a descriptor also used by Shearwater for this past January’s Jetplane and Oxbow. And why the hell not? It’s an election year — a particularly bug-shit election year, no less. Of course there’s going to be a lot of political music coming out. But the records are polar opposites of each other, taking decidedly different approaches when examining the current state of our country.
Many of the YouTube commenters on the Drive-By Truckers’ lyric video for “What It Means” seem offended by the overt politics of the song, which comes from the group’s new album. With references to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and other young black men killed largely because they were young black men, the tune is unreservedly sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement—uncomfortably so, it seems, for some listeners, who accuse the band of “white guilt,” “selling out” and, that most grievous of liberal pantywaist sins, political correctness. Yet the Drive-By Truckers have always had a political streak, and it has never tilted rightward.
It all started with the border: In 1931, in Laredo, in Texas: Harlon Carter, 17, American, shot and killed Ramón Casiano, 15, Mexican. A murder conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Appeals and Harlon Carter lived another 60 years, set 44 US sharp-shooting records, served on Truman’s Migratory Labor Commission, sat on a US Olympic Committee, became a border agent, a Federal law-enforcement official, Executive V.P. of the National Rifle Association.
“Go sing this song at the next cop’s funeral thats shot by Black Lives Matter.” “This is some preachy stuff. It’s one-sided. It’s cliched. It really doesn’t even attempt to find any middle ground.”. “This band used to be good. But now they’ve sold out to the politically ….
Members of the alternative country band Drive-By Truckers, from left, Brad Morgan, Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood, Jay Gonzalez, and Matt Patton. Members of the alternative country band Drive-By Truckers, from left, Brad Morgan, Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood, Jay Gonzalez, and Matt Patton. On its 11th studio album, "American Band" (ATO), the Drive-By Truckers are a band renewed.
Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood wrote What It Means, one of American Band's most powerful songs, while gripped by the senseless murders of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. It's breezy and introspective but anchored by rage, frustration and poignant lyrics: "I mean, Barack Obama won and you can choose where to eat / but you don't see too many white kids lyin' bleeding in the street." Though it doesn't offer answers, it shines a spotlight on the state of race relations in the U.S., the country's mixed-up priorities and the hopelessness that all inspires. Like most of the album - 11 intense tracks about the bloody and bruised nation - What It Means raises difficult questions about complex issues in a stunning manner.
A weekly roundup of must-hear music from The Times’ music staff. This week’s picks include the latest from beloved, funk-leaning local star Thundercat, as well as works from Ella Mai, José James and Guy Clark. Thundercat, “Drunk” (Brainfeeder) This is a modal window. Although the artist’s primary instrument is the electric bass, he’s not the kind to rely on your standard four-string variety.