After all, they backed Bettye Lavette on her Grammy-nominated comeback album, “Scene of the Crime,” and Booker T. Jones on his “Potato Hole.” Bandleader Patterson Hood’s father, David Hood, is one of the legendary Muscle Shoals session players, the Swampers having backed Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge, among many others. So, it’s more than an obligation, it’s a birthright.
On “Go-Go Boots,” their tenth record, they deliver on that promise. This is most evident on the two Eddie Hinton covers, “Everybody Needs Love” and “Where’s Eddie?” Hood provides vocals on the former and bassist Shonna Tucker on the later. The South in their voices augments the soul, like real butter on a real biscuit, and Jay Gonzales’ Hammond B-3 and Wurlitzer adds the homemade jelly. Guitarist/songwriter Mike Cooley brings the other side of the soul equation, the blue-eyed soul. This is actual country music, the kind Nashville no longer makes.
Cooley has always been master of the cleverly crafted cliché, to wit on the song, “Cartoon Gold “
“I’m not good with numbers, I just count on knowing when I’m high enough / A mule with only two legs counting steps towards dangling carrots don’t add up / I think about you when I can , and even sometimes when I can’t, I do / Once the driver knows you got good sense, he takes away the carrots too.”
The Truckers are equal parts melody and mayhem, but, absent are the barn-burners present on last year’s “The Big To Do.” In their place are quieter songs, no less introspective, nor, devoid of human drama.
For those of us for whom Thanksgiving and Christmas are more a source of stress and tension than the warm fuzzies they‘re supposed to be, the Hood-penned “The Thanksgiving Filter” will ring as true as the current economy is bad. Familiar subjects of murder, madness, and the American Dream gone sour, reappear, as does landscape from earlier records: Rogersville, Alabama from “Southern Rock Opera,” where the protagonist is nabbed with “a half-ounce of weed and a case of Sterling Bigmouth,” and Colbert County from “The Dirty South.” where he wonders if he’ll make the evening news if he’s killed, there.
As Neil Young once said, “I found the middle of the road a boring place to be, so, I headed for the ditch. The people there were more interesting.”
Driveby Truckers study that same roadmap, the destination never certain, but, the trip sure is a hoot.