The world of the Drive-By Truckers isn’t a pretty one. It’s full of suicide, desperation, alienation and death, yet there’s still an undercurrent of resigned humor. Throughout their new album, Pizza Deliverance , the Truckers take a peak into the nasty side of Southern life, dredge up some unpleasant truths, but manage to keep tongue firmly in cheek. On top of that, the Athens, GA., band has made an excellent record full of clever lyrics, top-notch songcraft and “ragged-but-right” playing.
Patterson Hood is in charge of the singing and songwriting for the majority of the album, and while his whiskey-soaked vocals may not be aesthetically pretty to some ears, they have a charming earthiness about them. The high point of the record is a long-time concert favorite “Nine Bullets,” a delightfully wicked revenge fantasy. Hood cuts out some serious slices of rural Southern life in “Bulldozers and Dirt” and “Tales Facing Up.” His stories aren’t exactly pretty nor do they end happily, but Hood has a way of making them seem awfully real, more like a Faulkner tale set to a ragged punk rock backing. He takes a few cuts at himself, or at least the character he portrays in his tunes with “The Company I Keep.” He may not be exactly proud of himself or his actions, but he’s got no problem telling the truth, ugly as it may be.
Longtime cohort and guitarist Mike Cooley contributes another of the album’s top tracks with the brutally blunt “Uncle Frank.” In the song, Cooley contrasts the urbanization of the South thanks to the Tennessee Valley Authority, particularly his hometown of Muscle Shoals, AL., with the tragic tale of one man caught up in the whirlwind of change that took place in North Alabama during the forties and fifties. The story isn’t one to evoke pity or remorse; it’s just a true story. The same is true with “One of These Days,” where Cooley realizes his old man’s advice on life wasn’t that far off the mark.
Bassist Rob Malone contributes the bluesy “Mrs. Dubose,” taken from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird , and the band shows its rather sardonic sense of humor about America’s preoccupation with prescription medication in “Zoloft.” The Drive-By Truckers are a band well worth paying attention to, and Pizza Deliverance is definitely an album worth checking out. Like the South they love so much, the Truckers’ tunes aren’t always pretty, but they’re real and always interesting.
Soul Dump Records, P.O Box 667, Athens, GA 30603