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What Once Was Trash is Now a Treasure

D2CD13Drive-By Truckers – The Fine Print: A Collection of Oddities and Rarities
September 1, 2009
New West Records

Victim of Loudness War? No

The Drive-By Truckers’ latest entry is the “odds and ends” compilation that doesn’t sound like just that – a bunch of random songs thrown together with no symmetry or continuity. Thankfully, from the opening salvo of “George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues”, The Fine Print: A Collection of Oddities and Rarities sounds like a Drive-By Truckers album. Which is to say, if you haven’t liked the band thus far, then nothing on this collection will change your mind. The Truckers have suffered from being pigeon-holed and stereotyped – in a time when glitz and glamor triumph over substance and content, the band has persevered over the past 13 years, releasing gritty, honest and relevant music. The Fine Print draws from those 13 years, and what a musical story it tells.

The Drive-By Truckers come to us via Alabama, and that sense of Southern storytelling is inherent in almost every song on this record.  Comprised of Patterson Hood (guitar/vocals), Mike Cooley aka “The Stroker Ace” (guitar/vocals), Shonna Tucker (bass/vocals), Brad Morgan (drums), along with longtime friend and collaborator-turned full-time Trucker John Neff (slide guitar, steel guitar), they are a band of voracious integrity, always looking to tell the truth as they perceive it. The tracks contained on The Fine Print cover the period in which the mega-talented Jason Isbell was in the band, which was a time of special creativity for them, evidenced by the supreme quality of tracks presented here.

Highlights of the collection include a re-working of Tom Petty’s “Rebels” (which was apparently recorded for TV’s King Of the Hill, but never used) and now-departed Isbell’s “TVA,” a heartbreaking and heartwarming track at the same time. Both tracks were inexplicably cast aside, despite their strength and contribution to the band’s vast body of work.  Even the outtake versions of the vastly-underrated Mike Cooley track “Uncle Frank” and the expert Patterson Hood track “Goode’s Field Road” don’t sound like rehashes of the same songs we know – “Goode’s Field Road”, in particular, benefits greatly from the uptempo reading given here and adds to the story which unfolds throughout this record.

That story is dark, yet funny…poignant, yet simple. It’s a story of a band going through changes, of people growing through life and its experiences. There are suicidally drunken uncles, people driving while on their cell phones, pie baking mamas, sons that don’t come home until 11:35 on a Wednesday Night, conscience-laden car dealers, a darkly amorous Santa Claus, bottles under the blanket, wells running dry, stoically unchanging fathers..and even rock n’ roll music thrown into the mix.

By the time the set winds down with an unflinching cover of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”, a song that could easily sound cliche given the numbers of times its been covered over the years, things are still earnest and heartfelt. As Cooley, Hood, Isbell, and DBT bassist Shonna Tucker (Isbell’s then-wife) pass the song’s verses around like a bottle of whiskey or a strong joint, it seems fitting. It’s not the end of the story, just the end of a chapter.

– Jeremy Hunsaker

To purchase Drive-By Trucker’s The Fine Print, please click here.

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August 29, 2009 - Posted by | classic rock, Guitar, Guitars, jam band, Rock, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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