Drive-By Truckers: Light It Up

We've all had other jobs, physical type jobs, and we don't want to do that again. It makes you appreciate the people who do that work, and it's important to us that our songs speak to hard working people. We all come from middle class families from Alabama pretty much... That's who we are. I hope that's who I always am.

-Shonna Tucker

Photo by Jason Thrasher

The Van Is Packed

Patterson Hood by Kayceman
Returning to the new album, Hood says, "Honestly, I'm happy with everything about the record. Usually by the time our records come out I hear something I wish we'd done differently, but on this one I don't. I think it's the best bunch of songs we've ever recorded, the best we've ever played and definitely the best time we've ever had making a record. It just came very naturally and unforced. I'm really excited to go out and play this show live and see where it morphs to. 'Cause it will change as it gets played over the course of the next year. It'll warp into something different. They all do."

Music is a constantly evolving entity for these folks. Just because it's set down for the permanent record on vinyl (and by the end of 2008 their entire catalog should be available in LP form) doesn't mean it's done growing.

"That's definitely true. That's why I've always been supportive of the tapers at our shows. If left to my devices, we would probably have released a few more official live documents through the years, but maybe at some point in the future that'll be a possibility, too," offers Hood.

It only seems right that a band like the Truckers should have their own Live At The Fillmore set one day. Based on the two performances I've seen them play at the hallowed San Francisco hall it's clear they pick up on the residual concert mojo hiding in the cracks of that building.

"That was a biggie," says Hood, referring to their Fillmore debut a few years back. "As a kid I grew up worshipping rock 'n' roll and reading all the big magazines. I grew up in the era of Creem and Rolling Stone was a little different then, or I perceived it to be anyway in my teenage head. The Fillmore was always the landmark. Each time we get to play there is a big deal. I don't take it for granted, that's for sure."

DBT possess an almost supernatural level of conviction and intensity in the live setting. It can hit you like a revival meeting where you don't have to hide your flask or hand rolled distractions. It draws folks to them in a profound way that almost seems silly to anyone who hasn't figured out that rock 'n' roll is one of our last legitimate churches. Longtime Drive-By Truckers artist Wes Freed got hit in the spirit the first night he saw them.

Drive-By Truckers by Jason Thrasher
"My wife Jill and I were in a band called Dirtball and we played Bubbapalooza [an annual festival in Atlanta, GA celebrating 'The Redneck Underground'] one year. The second night we were checking out bands for a Richmond showcase thing we did called 'The Capital City Barn Dance,' and we saw them play and were just knocked on our asses," recalls Freed. "I was so hung over I wanted to crawl somewhere and die. The bands got free draft beer from a keg, which was warm and not particularly good. So, I was nursing one of those and wanting to die. Then they played and I felt human again."

That night numbers were exchanged and soon the Truckers played some Barn Dances. Once they saw Freed's artwork around his house they asked him to do the cover for Southern Rock Opera. From the start, Freed showed a gift for pulling out powerful imagery from their songs and twisting it wonderfully with ink and paint.

"I get the roughs early on and I take a day to listen to the record and take notes. I think about which particular lines equate themselves well as a visual image," says Freed, who's done both regular album and booklet covers for them as well as song-by-song illustrations, set design, tour shirts and more. His artwork is frequently a listener's handshake entry to the Truckers' world. "The lyrical imagery is undeniable. When I listen to them I get these pictures in my head. It's not just the lyrics it's the melodies, too. It's the whole package."

It's Freed's visuals that map out the topography inside the Truckers' tales, pass the overhang of "Lookout Mountain" down "Goode's Field Road" and winding through the sunset corridors of "The Monument Valley." The way the music and paintings overlap helps build drama and strange verisimilitude.

"I have done a few things with other bands since I started working with them but for the most part I stay away from that. My stuff is pretty identifiable and the whole idea is to give them something identifiable with them and only them. People have come to me and it was obvious they wanted something that looked like the Drive-By Truckers because they wanted some of that juju. They wanted to get on that Truckers tip and I'm not going to do that. It would cheapen everything and make it wrong."

Continue reading for more on the Drive-By Truckers...

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