If you entered this page via an external link and wish to view the entire site, Please click here


Irish Release January 18, 2008 on New West Records

World Tour Dates Announced Soon! ~

2007 was a year of transition and reinvention for our band, having been on the road almost constantly since the fall of 2001 a break was desperately needed. A little time at home to recharge and perhaps rethink some things.

The blurring of the lines between the personal and the musical has always been an integral part of what this band does and part of what sets it apart from the corporate music machines that dominate so much of pop-culture in the name of what used to be called Rock and Roll. That said, when things go wrong it can become an unbearable situation on levels both personal and artistic. Such is what led to the amicable and mutually desired parting of ways with Jason Isbell in the spring of 2007. He had been an integral part of our musical family for five years and three albums but personal and creative differences brought about the need or change.

Moving on after such a loss seemed at first a daunting challenge. Our band’s survival instincts (much of what has kept mine and Mike Cooley’s partnership alive and well for 22+ years) led us to strip everything down to the essential elements of song and rebuild it from scratch. This led to us booking and playing a semi-acoustic tour we named The Dirt Underneath where we would go out without all of the trappings and decorations of “The Big Rock Show” and put the emphasis on the songs and stories. It also gave us a chance to acquaint everyone with our dear friend John Neff. Neff was a founding member of our band who continued to play on our albums from time to time and he became a full-time part of the touring band a couple of years ago. He’s an excellent guitar player but is best known for his amazing pedal steel abilities. His playing has graced acclaimed albums by Japancakes, The Star Room Boys, Barbara Cue and Lona among many others. During some troubled times, John’s playing was one of the few things we could all agree on.

Around this same time we were asked to back up soul legend Bettye LaVette on the follow-up to her excellent breakthrough album I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise. For that project we took her down to Muscle Shoals, AL and enlisted the help of another soul music legend, our dear friend Spooner Oldham. The resulting album Scene of the Crime (Anti Records) has furthered her comeback and showed off another side of our band’s versatility (something often overlooked by folks who often label us as some kind of “Southern Rock” novelty act). Working with Spooner on that project also directly led to us asking him to participate in The Dirt Underneath.

When we all convened to work up The Dirt Underneath show, everyone came in with lots of new material and it became almost immediately apparent that the show’s emphasis would be on working up our new album in front of a live audience over the course of the tour. Cooley has always written my favorite songs in the band. Like so many other ways that we find ourselves as the polar opposites, I’ll write dozens of songs searching for that good one, he’ll skip the middle man and write one or two songs in a year but they might be “Zip City” and “Women Without Whiskey”. This year he came in with seven songs, each one as good as any he’s ever written.

I’ve been writing songs since I was eight years old and writer’s block had never been anything more than a week or two dryspell, however the past several years had seen me slow down to a trickle. This finally ended with a vengeance around the time we came off the road last fall, as I wrote about 50 songs in six months, giving me a lot of material to choose from for the new album.

We spent two days rehearsing and premiered The Dirt Underneath at The Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA on April 27 and 28 then loaded the trailer and headed west for a three week tour that went far above and beyond our best hopes. By the end of the tour (at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO.) we were averaging 8-9 of the new songs a night, many of which were getting our best responses. It was really surreal hearing people sing along with Cooley’s “A Ghost To Most” considering we had yet to record it and had only worked it up three weeks earlier. We came home, slept for a couple of weeks and reconvened in the studio on June 11, 2007 (one day after our band’s eleventh birthday).

Most of the songs were recorded live in the studio although we will admit to taking great care with getting really good vocal takes and with really taking our time working on harmonies. Some songs were well rehearsed when we went in to record them, having worked them out on the road the previous month. Others were improvised on the spot. Some of our favorite moments were total accidents and we intentionally allowed ample room and opportunity for the happy accident. Those happy accidents were recorded and captured on sixteen tracks of glorious 2” tape by our recording soul mate David Barbe at his Chase Park Transduction studio in Athens, GA. This is our sixth album with him and each time it gets better. We spent most of July on the road doing a second leg of The Dirt Underneath before reconvening in August to finish recording and mix the album. This time David mixed it himself, keeping true to the homegrown and ‘keep it in the family’ spirit that pervades the whole album.

As the album took shape, the sequence came so easy it was as if it was written in that sequence. But as time ticked away on the recording session, one song seemed to be missing. With 18 songs in the can the notion of a missing piece was amusing to most, but with each listen and every possible arrangement of songs, one song just wasn’t there. Finally, a couple of days before our last day of tracking I wrote “The Righteous Path”. I went in the next night and played it through once for everybody and we rolled tape, nailing it in one take and finishing the puzzle.

In addition to having Spooner Oldham play on the album, this time also marked the first time we recorded songs by our bass player, Shonna Tucker. A more private person cast in the midst of a bunch of extroverts, I’ve known of her great skills as a writer for as long as I’ve known her. This time she showed up with two great songs she wrote the week before recording commenced. She then proceeded to write another at the studio. They make a great addition to our album.

Inter-connected themes explored by three different writers (with three very different points of view) has always been a hallmark of what sets our band apart. This album might even take all of that to the next level, as this is by far our most eclectic, yet cohesive album ever. In the end, we ended up with nineteen songs. Nine by me, three by Shonna, and seven by Cooley. Stylistically, they run the gamut from old-timey sounding country to a heavy R&B influence. Some songs that are quieter than any we’ve ever recorded and some that rock harder than anything we’ve ever done. In the end it’s still all Rock and Roll (which is why that will always be the description of choice to us when describing our music in stylistic terms). Finished, sequenced, even mixed and we still had no title for the album.

As a band famous for our sometimes hard-fighting ways, we managed to make this album without so much as a single creative disagreement. They say that the best art is often born of adversity and there was plenty leading up to the writing of the songs, but the actual recording process was a marvel of united purpose and inspiration. Then it came time to name the thing and we couldn’t agree on anything. No heated battles, just a comedy of errors as each potential title would get 2-3 votes. Every decision had been unanimous and we wanted the title to be also but there was always a dissenting vote.

In the end we went with BRIGHTER THAN CREATION’S DARK, which came from a line in Cooley’s song “Checkout Time in Vegas” and to me made an apt description of the music we had made. Don’t think we ever got that unanimous vote, but ran out of time and had to name it something. It was also a title that greatly appealed to Wes Freed, who has done all of our album cover art since 2001 and would be designing this one also. He was so inspired by the title that he created the finest artwork of our history for this album.

This story ends here with the completion of our best album. It is also the beginning, as we will be spending most of the next year or two playing these songs all over the world for what should become our most ambitious seasons of touring yet.

It’s a grower so play it loud and play it often.

Long Live Rock and Roll.

Patterson Hood - November 1, 2007 – Athens GA. USA


An Attempted Song By Song by Patterson Hood

Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife was written as a result of trying to make some kind of peace with an unspeakable tragedy that affected so many people I know and love. I was hoping to help with the healing and closure by trying to provide a beautiful song that dwells on the positives of love and family. I knew it was the first song on the album the moment I wrote it.

3 Dimes Down is a Cooley song and he never really discusses any of his lyrics with me or anyone else so I’m not going to do him the disservice of doing so myself except to say Tom T. Hall’s “Week in a Country Jail” is certainly worth checking out for a clue. He played me a 4-track demo he recorded of it one night while we were all working on the Bettye LaVette album and I doubled over in laughter. The second verse may be my all-time favorite on a Drive-By Truckers album.

We were almost through tracking this album when I wrote The Righteous Path. It was the missing piece of the puzzle and I knew it immediately. I played it through for everyone once and then we nailed it in one take. Some songs are just meant to be.

Shonna has been writing songs as long as I’ve known her. She always said that one day she’d bring one or two in for us to possibly perform. I kinda thought she was going to pull one out during the making of our last album but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The week before we began recording the album, Shonna wrote The Purgatory Line and I’m Sorry Huston. She demoed them in her living room and played them for us when we convened. We were all blown away by what great and beautiful songs they were. A day or two later, she stayed behind while the rest of us went to supper and wrote Home Field Advantage..

Every time I hear Perfect Timing, I pick up on something new in it. It’s really a grower and a really good performance. John Neff did a great job with the acoustic guitar solos.

Daddy Needs A Drink really showcases the chemistry we have with Spooner Oldham. His legendary playing has graced some of our favorite records in the world. He co-wrote “I’m Your Puppet” and played on “When A Man

Loves A Woman” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” and “Do Right Woman”. He is the single most creative soul I have ever met and his talent is only exceeded by his charm as he is one of the single sweetest men we have ever met. Every single day on the road and in the studio was brightened by his presence and his contribution to this album is monumental (thus its dedication to him).

Cooley seldom talks about what inspires specific songs, but I was there with him in 1991 and saw Self Destructive Zones play out in living color. I think the imagery about the pawnshops and pointy cheap guitars is priceless. I know Bob and you do too. Everyone knows him and he’s probably about as good as they come. I probably know his mother too.

There are things you sometimes have to do in order to do what you got to do. The trick is to not let that thing kill you before you do what you got to do. Some folks don’t learn that one in time. The Opening Act began as a song written on the back of a discarded setlist from the headlining band on a sticky table at the shithole bar described within it. The fake bull and faux cowboy were all too real, as was the trip to the hospital for the guy looking for his manhood in all the wrong places. I struggled with an ending for the thing for several years, leaving it behind only to be drawn to it again. It was only with the retrospect offered by a year or two of distance that revealed the song’s true meaning to me, thus telling me exactly how to close it out. I like to think of it as a short film without the film. There is nothing like a Technicolor horizon to offer a centerpiece on an album so full of black and white and nighttime skies.

Lisa’s Birthday was inspired by a story told to Cooley by our old guitar tech Mark Messner. I think it sounds like pure Country Gold circa 1967.

Two separate backstage visits by almost strangers, each touched in different ways by our American tragedy in Iraq, led to the writing of The Home Front and That Man I Shot. I was only a kid when we were over in Vietnam, but I somehow did learn a lesson or two from it. I never so much wanted to be proven wrong in my beliefs as with our current situation, but the evidence so far seems to support that it ain’t working out too good for anybody. Now, we’re just trying to save face, at the expense of many young lives that could be ordered to serve our country in more productive ways. Seems our band has some fans over there and we’re always moved by the stories of really fine folks who are sacrificing so much for our privileged existence. The man in That Man I Shot probably doesn’t agree with a lot of my viewpoints, but I tried to be true to what he said and how he said it. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect them and that seemed to run both ways with us. As a writer, it’s not my job to agree or disagree and certainly not to judge. It is my job to be as true to the character’s voice as humanly possible and to tell the story accordingly. The extended family that inspired The Home Front absolutely broke my heart with their story. I changed the names and some details but again tried to be true to the spirit of what they told me.

Wanted to be true also to that guy riding to his destiny in the back of a rented car in the middle of the night to a destination that he thinks will be the answer to all his problems. It was an ageless story with a different twist.

Insurance money for the family seemed like a better option than the kind of prison awaiting him. A thousand decisions had led him there and it wasn’t my place to question them. There isn’t an actual road called Goode’s Field Road but if you grew up where I did you know exactly where it is. Some of the best stories aren’t really for the telling and the best songs come from the details and spaces locked within.

I wrote this song in 2000 and planned it for The Dirty South album, but at the last minute decided we didn’t have the magic take and swapped it for Lookout Mountain. The song has been on my mind ever since but its transition from the mannered country of its original version to the raging primal stomp we landed on here (one magic take) made all the difference and once again proved to me that all things happen for a reason, you just have to trust your instinct (if they seem to be good ones at least) and let things reveal themselves in their own due time.

You And Your Crystal Meth was recorded for Blessing and A Curse but voted off the album. I was quite unhappy about it until I realized how perfect it sits between Checkout Time in Vegas and Goode’s Field Road. We used the old take exactly as it was. I think that take was when I knew that John Neff HAD to rejoin this band. Our beloved producer David Barbe played an extra big part in the creation of that song too.

Checkout Time in Vegas was inspired by the true-life story of our dear friend Scott Baxendale. He builds guitars for a living (he’s currently working on a second one for me and a third one for Cooley). He is also a talented screenwriter and documentary director. The story this song alludes to is the basis for an excellent screenplay that he has been trying to get filmed. He became convinced that Johnny Depp should play his character (I want him to maybe play me too for that matter) and went to great lengths to get him a copy. He filmed these great lengths and made a documentary about it all, which recently was screened at The Hollywood Film Festival to rave reviews. He is currently negotiating a distribution deal for it. This guy is amazing and you should play one of his guitars. We meet the most unbelievable people out there on the road.

Cooley closes his set with A Ghost to Most, which I am firmly convinced is the best song he’s ever written. We worked it up in practice for The Dirt Underneath Tour and it quickly became one of the standout tunes of each show.

The chorus reveals an image so basic and simple yet each listen reveals another layer of story implied within. I overheard Cooley being asked by a friend what it all meant and his response was how “It’s really hard for me to find a suit that fits me right.”

The album closes with The Monument Valley and the classic imagery from John Ford’s immortal masterpiece The Searchers as the door closes on John Wayne’s walk off into the desolate beauty of a disappearing America. Ford may have been America’s greatest ever filmmaker and repeated viewings of his work reveals insights into our psyche that have never been expressed better. For me it’s an extremely personal song and it was a magical take that night in the studio. I knew that it would be the last song on the album the moment I wrote it.

I often write liner notes for our albums and worked most of the summer on a set juxtaposing the two backstage meetings last year. One with the three Green Berets soldiers who had returned home and the other with the family of the soldier who didn’t. Those two events played a large part on the writing of this album and I plan to get around to writing about something else pertaining to all of it at a later time.

November 2, 2007 – Athens, GA.



«Back to Top»


A Blessing and a Curse

You hear about “the greatest band in the world” being dropped on many a group, desperately given this medal in hopes they’ll use it to “save rock-n-roll,” whatever that means. But no band that has had to suffer under this artificial responsibility has succeeded so triumphantly as Drive-By Truckers. Equal parts back porch historians, runaway drunken firecrackers, and poets of the hard life and how to live it; they came on the scene and set the bar higher for what you can do with the music we love. The characters in their songs have left gals at the altar, wrecked their cars, woken up on the cold floor and even killed themselves a number of times over the years, breathing some new intelligent life, not just into rock music but, into rockers everywhere. Many a critic, including myself, have placed upon them the treacherous mantle of being The Best Rock Band In The World, and they wear this title like the blessing and the curse it is…I love this band.

Their three front men/guitarists/songwriters: Patterson Hood, long time running partner Mike Cooley and guitar wizard Jason Isbell, make for a triumvirate that would crumble a lesser band. Hood explains, “We are all very close, in a family kind of way, albeit a sometimes dysfunctional one. We fight, sometimes very hard, but couldn't continue with such strong opinions and personalities without a huge degree of mutual respect for each other personally and artistically.” In a live setting, that respect takes shape as intricate, driving interlocking hard guitar rock, nimble as a ballet dancer with too much Jack Daniels in her, and with the emotional impact of Walker Percy slamming into you with an out of control stock car. But all hyperbole aside, they avoid the trap of caricature in their songs, instead building their poetry out of the sweetest and harshest thing available in this world – love and the pain that comes with it.

DBT’s 7th album, A Blessing and a Curse, takes in all the elements that make them great and condenses them into the tightest, hardest rocking set of songs they’ve yet to produce. Their influences in the past have been immortalized in song, but here we see them integrated into the songs. The opening track “Feb 14” sounds like the best, most poetic song the Replacements never released and Cooley’s devastatingly great rocker “Gravity’s Gone” does the same thing with a Creedence Clearwater Revival backwoods twang. Isbell chimes in with “Easy on Yourself” a subtler yet more biting warning fable in the vein of 2003’s “Outfit.” And just when you think that these former class clowns have moved on to the honor society, they kick in with the hilarious “Aftermath USA” - as good a train-wreck, surmise-the-damage classic as anything from Waylon or Merle.

Everything on this album is a notch sharper, a logical progression from 2004’s neutron bomb of a record The Dirty South, pushing beyond singing about the South to universal themes of love and pain and determination with more drive and more passion than they have ever displayed before. Isbell opens his throat and delivers some vocals so soaring, so potent on the chorus of “Daylight” that they give me chills every single time. “Wednesday” weaves a dense elliptical tale about a man losing a woman, and maybe dying, maybe not even existing. “Goodbye” has the warm glow of a candle, illuminating those moments when things work in this life and when they fall apart. It’s beautiful stuff - deeper, warmer, and more real than anything else you might find out there.

But the real push forward on this record can be found in its heaviest songs. The 10,000-pound subject matter of an infant cousin dying before you were born, and how that presence persists, makes “Little Bonnie” possibly the most poignant song they’ve ever put to tape. The final track, “A World of Hurt,” offers a sermon against suicide (a recurrent theme in their songs) but Hood explains it’s much bigger than that: “Suicide is only one part. The song is really about learning how to live, or at least striving to learn how to live. To love is to open your heart up to unbearable pain, but what good is life without it?” In “Space City,” Cooley offers a bittersweet tale about his grandfather following his grandmother's death and how one learns to make it through the intangible and the unflinching realities of life. Hood remarked, “Its ruminations on love and loss, to me reveal the true nature and theme of the album, to love IS to feel pain. A blessing and a curse.”

It is fitting that the final words on the album are "It's great to be alive". The songs on this record illustrate the triumphant struggle it is to survive and thrive in this world. It’s not only a great record, but an important statement delivered honestly and passionately without any sugar coating or details spared. It’s a refinement, a honing, and a focusing of what you’ve always loved about them, what makes this band the greatest band in the world.

«Back to Top»

To view larger and/or download full size print versions of these images. Please select the thumbnails below


«Back to Top»