The Athens, Georgia-by-way-of-Alabama outfit has gripped listeners’ souls with an international scope through its unflinching and sometimes willfully grim narratives of love, life and loss. 

click to enlarge DAVID MCCLISTER
  • David McClister

Divorce and death; corruption and incest; loneliness and the drugs and booze used to try and forget about it — Drive-By Truckers have never shied away from the darker side of life. The Athens, Georgia-by-way-of-Alabama outfit has gripped listeners’ souls with an international scope through its unflinching and sometimes willfully grim narratives of love, life and loss.

But bandleaders and songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have always approached that colossal tumult of grief and anguish with a wry smile. Drive-By Truckers fill the gaps in the darkness with hearty laughs and barbed jokes, song titles like “Buttholeville,” “Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)” and “Shit Shots Count” clueing in a refusal to let the realities of the world keep the band or its listeners down.

“We all have a dark sense of humor,” Hood said. “A lot of the stuff we sing about is pretty serious and pretty heavy, but approaching it with a little humor helps. It prevents it from becoming depressing or anything. At the end of the day, I want it to be a good time.”

Roots in The Shoals of Northern Alabama and the history and culture of the greater South are all too instrumental in the band’s good- time loving but straight-shooting makeup — not just aesthetically, in the Southern rock-punctuated alt- country ballads they have become so well known for, but also in the content of each and every yarn the band has reeled off in the past 18 years.

A broad national and even international following supports the uncompromising truth of these country-fried tales, though, a reminder that no matter where you are in the world, you are only a few minutes away from a Southern state of mind. “New York, Seattle, Tulsa — it doesn’t matter,” Hood said. “Drive 20 miles out and away in any direction and you’re out in that sort of rural countryside. No matter where you grew up, it winds up being fairly universal.”

Nearly 20 years and now 10 studio albums in, the band is as driven as ever to speak to your soul. And with this year’s English Oceans, Drive-By Truckers are doing it as well as ever.

A critical success and the group’s highest Billboard-charting album to date, the album was exceptional to Hood from the outset, “First Air of Autumn” and “Grand Canyon” representing two of his personal DBT favorites.

“We knew we had done something special, whether or not people outside of the band thought the same thing,” he said of the album, the follow-up to the concurrently recorded pair The Big To-Do (2010) and Go-Go Boots (2011). “It’s been nice, having it be so well-received by others, too.”

Playing on Wednesday, September 17 at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Drive-By Truckers are in “a really good place,” finally finding a sense of true stability that has eluded them as key members like Jason Isbell and Shonna Tucker have departed to focus on solo careers. Hood, Cooley & Co. feel as equipped to do what they’ve always wanted — now more than ever.

“I’m still trying just as hard to write a good song next week as I was 20 years ago,” Hood said. “We push ourselves hard to grow as a band and artists. It would be boring not to. The last thing I want to do is go on stage and not have new songs to play.”


Drive-By Truckers with Lucero

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 17

Cain's Ballroom

423 N. Main St., Tulsa

cainsballroom.com

918-584-2306

$22-$37


Print headline: Truckin’ good Withstanding lineup and scenery changes hasn’t fazed Drive-By Truckers’ country-bred brand of indie rock.

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