Drive-by Truckers: Through the ringer and out Brighter Than Creation’s Dark

:: Drive-By Truckers :: Ogden Theater :: February 22 ::
 :: Fox Theatre :: February 23 ::


By Brian F. Johnson

It’s really amazing what a little bit of time away and some deep breaths can do.

Drive-By Truckers have been going almost non-stop since 2001, when they released Southern Rock Opera to an astonishing amount of critical and audience acclaim. That album set the wheels in motion for a non-stop whirlwind — album, tour, album tour lifestyle. The band followed Southern Rock Opera with Decoration Day (2003), The Dirty South (2004), and A Blessing and A Curse (2006).

In that time, the band picked up a new bassist, who later married the band’s newest guitarist, grew from playing little hole-in-the-wall dives to full theaters, and finally retired their old Dodge tour van for the comforts of a tour bus.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The intra-band marriage dissolved, and with it went guitarist Jason Isbell. With each release the buzz faded a bit more, despite the fact that Dirty South is the band’s best-selling album to date. Even lead singer Patterson Hood wrote on the band’s website that the band’s last album is “polarizing” and that some people have told him that they hate it (obviously those people need to go back and listen to “World of Hurt” again).

“We kind of hit a wall by the fall of ’06,” said Hood in an interview with The Marquee from his home in Athens, Ga., the week before their newest album, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, was set to be released. “We were at a point where we were seriously even considering if we were done. You know, I love rock history and all these bands that are some of my favorite bands in the world, they break up and self-destruct. And then, years down the road, they go, ‘You now, if we’d just been able to take a little bit of time off, we’d mighta been able to see the forest for the trees;’ just a little time to breath and re-examine where we are, who we are and who we want to be. So, 2007 was our year to do that,” Hood said.
The result, according to Hood, has been like a new engine in an old ’67 Mustang Fastback.

“I don’t think the band has ever been getting along better than it is now. It’s a great moment in our history. We’re putting out a new record and can’t wait to get together and get out and play this record live. It feels creative again,” he said.

That re-birth is of paramount importance, because had it gone the other way, Hood said it would have been a compromise that he isn’t willing to make. “To me, it’s blasphemous to do this job if it’s not fun. It’s disrespectful to the audience. It’s disrespectful to each other. It’s disrespectful to the calling,” he said.

Through the course of their time off, the Truckers were able to record their latest album, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. The majority was written between November, 2006 and May, 2007, but a few tracks came before and “The Righteous Path” was written and recorded in one take, as the album was being finished. “I wrote that song about two days before we reconvened in August to finish up the recording. There were so many songs, but there was a missing piece, and when I wrote it, I knew it was the missing piece. We went into the studio and I played it through for everybody once and he pushed record and that was the take. That was it,” Hood said. “There’s a lot of things like that on this record — a lot of happy accidents.”

Brighter Than Creation’s Dark was called (by this very writer) a “kinder-gentler” Truckers, since many songs on the album don’t feature the three-guitar attack that the band has become known for. But Hood sees it differently. “I wouldn’t say it’s kinder or gentler. It just puts the emphasis in a little different place, that’s all. In some ways it’s just as intense as anything we’ve ever done, it just doesn’t have a wall of guitars coming at you,” Hood said. “Some of these songs are a lot more rocking than you think. When you play it at home, play it real loud, ’cause there’s actually more rocking happening than you think on the surface.”

:: Drive-By Truckers ::
:: Ogden Theater :: February 22 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: February 23 ::

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