Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots
It’s that time of year again. It’s Drive-By Truckers time. The webisodes, the rock shows and the new album. But before getting into all that let’s set the baseline. I want you to know where I’m coming from before you read my review of DBT’s newest album, Go-Go Boots.
First off, I believe Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day and The Dirty South comprise one of the most impressive three-album runs by any band, ever. Second, Cooley is my favorite singer-songwriter in DBT, with Jason Isbell being a close second. When Isbell parted ways with the band 2007, after what was my least favorite album at the time, A Blessing And A Curse, I was confident that band would never be the same. Then they released the 19-song Brighter Than Creation’s Dark and it had a perfect 10-song album hidden within, proving the band would never be the same, but also proving they were still one of the best bands working today. The third point is that DBT is my favorite band working today. I might not love everything they do, but their overall output and uncompromising live shows put them a step above everything else I listen to. And last, I really like Go-Go Boots, but it is their worst album to date.
Patterson Hood likes to use films reference a lot lately. The stories on this album are the ‘movie version’ or this is a ‘noir album’ by a ‘noir band’. I think that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around. I don’t like all the promotion, the advertising, the build up and the long, long songs based around ‘true crime’ stories. I miss that raw, sweaty, drunk band. The band pounding Jack Daniels from the bottle in the van on their way to Zip City!
The first time I listened to Go-Go Boots I felt like I was sitting through a movie that couldn’t keep my attention. It took over six listens to realize the title song and The Fireplace Poker were two parts of the same story. My mind would wander a few minutes into each song; I just didn’t care what Patterson had to say about this subject or that subject. I think this is my biggest complaint with this new era of DBT, the stories that I can’t instantly relate to. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark was guilty of this as well, but those type of tracks were mixed in with short songs, party songs and even some humour. The Big To-Do had a few too (The Flying Wallendas & The Wig He Made Her Wear), but they didn’t dominate the album. Go-Go Boots has no less than five of these songs and they represent half of the running time.
The songs on this album were recorded during the same sessions as the tracks on The Big To-Do, but they are very different songs and it makes sense they would be on a separate album. The band has said this is their Muscle Shoals album, referring to the sound that originated in their hometown back in the 60’s/70’s. This album has a real country feel to it. Cooley‘s Pulaski is a straight-up country song, nothing ‘alt’ about it. Speaking of Cooley, he has three songs on the album and this is the only place any humour can be found. ‘I’m not good with numbers, I just count on knowing when I’m high enough’. ‘tending bar in L.A. after dark must be like mining cartoon gold, rocks that won’t cooperate and tools that drive you crazy must get old.’ These one-liners are a much needed interlude on a very serious album. Shonna has a couple songs as well. Her original Dancin’ Ricky is a good song, but she really shows off what she’s got on Muscle Shoals artist, Eddie Hinton‘s Where’s Eddie, the second of two covers on the album.
The rest of the album is all Patterson. His screenplay songs separated by some of the album’s best tracks; the opener I Do Believe is a subtle song about losing your mother, the first Eddie Hinton cover of Everybody Needs Love just might be the best song on the album (which says a lot), Assholes is about someone in the music industry, and Mercy Buckets closes out the album with what might be the closest thing to a rock song.
So why am I even recommending this album? Because. No matter how many negative things I can say about it, they are only negative when compared to the pinnacle that was the Southern Trilogy of Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day and The Dirty South. When compared to everything else being released right now, this is one of the best albums out there. It takes some time, it takes some dedication to get into the depth of the songs here, so if you are a DBT fan, don’t write this album off right away. It took me well over the obligatory five listens to come around and now that I have, I can appreciate it for what it is. Light a fire, pour a glass of whiskey and put this album on instead of a DVD…then listen closely to the stories being told. Relax and save your energy for when the Rock Show comes to town!
If you are not a DBT fan yet, don’t start with this album. Start with tracks 10-19 on Southern Rock Opera, then Decoration Day, then The Dirty South. After you’ve spent about five years with those, spend some time with the Cooley and Isbell tracks on A Blessing And A Curse. See them live at least twice, then pick up Brighter Than Creation’s Dark…pick your 10 favorite songs and stick with those for a year or so. Once you’ve got the taste go into the back catalog and check out where they got their start with Gangstabilly and Pizza Deliverance. Then, and only then, dive into The Big To-Do and Go-Go Boots.