May 29, 2024

Drive By Truckers – “The New OK” – passionately driven band say the new normal is not okay

DIGITAL RELEASE 2nd October 2020

PHYSICAL RELEASE 18th December 2020

Music as commentary and why not? An up to the minute album of tough state-of-the nation songs, rush released to make what difference they can to their country’s political future. The opening track sets the scene: “Goons with guns coming out to play / It’s a battle for the very soul of the USA. It’s the new OK”. It compares a lengthy but damaged relationship with a country screwed up and screwed over by its leaders. They go on to sing about Sarah Palin exploiting racism ten years ago and making it acceptable, paving the way for Trump. Even ‘Watching The Orange Clouds’ isn’t about a pretty sunset, but watching tear gas across a riot. Funnily I first heard it as “watching the orange clown”, which might have worked as well. It’s mature, with Patterson Hood singing about not wanting to wake his kids but realising they’d need waking to the injustices in the world.

They are angry and fed up too, all of these songs written during the reign of the orange clown but some written under the double whammy of COVID restrictions and the miasma of fear and recriminations. Patterson Hood describes “this endless summer of protests, riots, political shenanigans and pandemic horrors. To be sidelined with a brand new album and have to sit idly while so much that I love and hold dear falls apart before my very eyes has been intense, heartbreaking, anger-provoking and very depressing.” Just in case that seems depressing and just what you don’t need right now; the music sounds great, it acts as a call to arms and they have a sense of humour, signing off with a driving version of The Ramones’ The KKK Took My Baby Away – possibly the catchiest song about being abducted by cross-burning hate-filled loonies ever.

The Drive By Truckers aren’t hard on the ears; rocking a classic Southern Rock sound or an Americana-tinged shuffle but with consciously thoughtful lyrics. There is a voice that favours the medium-high tone, a little Neil Young-ish. Twin guitars weave interesting noodly patterns. Muscle Shoals flavours add rich tone with horn punctuation and Hammond organ sounds making this a soul / rock album.

As ever, vocal duties are shared between Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood, the songwriting duo, though their bassist gets a couple of slots too. A mix of recordings from the sessions for the last album and more recent pieces, necessity has meant that some of these are virtual long-distance collaboration. I challenge you to work out which is which.

Musically extremely accessible but pay attention; they are angry as hell and you’ll be inspired to get out and make a difference, whatever side of the Atlantic you live on.

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