This is a "staff recommendation" I wrote for the Capital Area District Library web site. I thought I may as well share it here. Since there was a lot of cutting and pasting going on, the font and font size may be messed up compared to the rest of the blog.
Drive-By Truckers—American Band
A perfect soundtrack for our troubled times
For over twenty years, the Athens GA based Drive-By Truckers have ambivalently assumed the mantle for Southern Rock. (I say “ambivalently” because they don’t like to be lumped into any category). Their songs have touched on Southern identity, society, and mythology, with their progressive-leaning politics always floating just under the surface.
On their 2016 album, American Band, politics take center stage unlike any of their previous records. Angered and frustrated by such issues as the Charleston (S.C.) church shooting, Confederate flag controversy, and various incidents of violence throughout the nation, songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley poured their emotions into the eleven songs that constitute this album.
What saves this project from being overly preachy or potentially dull is how the band tears into the music with fervor. It also helps that neither Hood nor Cooley pretend to have all the answers. Their songs sound like conversations between the band and the audience.
Not all of the songs are overtly political. “Sun Don’t Shine” is a quiet meditation on how weather can effect someone’s mood, and album-closer “Baggage” is a gut-wrenchingly emotional song that ties the suicide of Robin Williams with Patterson Hood’s own struggles with depression. (I have to admit that when I heard the lyric “I’ve had my own depression since I was just a kid/But been blessed with the means to repair” I lost it because it hit so close to my own experience).
Suffice it to say this album has been in almost constant rotation in my house for the last few months, and has added resonance considering our current political climate. If you’re a fan of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell (who was in Drive-By Truckers for a few years), or classic rock like Tom Petty and Lynyrd Skynyrd, give this album a spin.