It seems a paradox that while the Drive-By Truckers’ sound is so unique; it is still part of a greater and larger family. Some of the other greats—particularly in the South—were spawned from their culture, while others came from the deeper rootstock of the southern landscape itself. Of course in the long run the landscape has a significant say in what kind of culture develops; it’s all tangled together, all connected, and everything shares bits and strands of those fragments, again like a pastiche of random and beautiful genomes. Each of the three vocalists—Cooley, Patterson, Shonna—is distinct; each aches in its own way with sometimes gravelly and other-times smooth sweet wistful broken-glass hurt and yearning and reluctant. Patterson’s songs, of course are almost always willing, in the great Southern tradition, to take on the Man—or anyone else—as are Cooley’s, when the cause is big and just.
Their sound—so distinctly theirs—comes nonetheless from history and the past. It’s all a big tangled beautiful mess, and it all comes out of Muscle Shoals, where, as Patterson’s father, legendary bassist David Hood, astutely notes, the South once did something right with respect to race relations, once-upon-a-time, and when it most mattered.