Sunday, April 27, 2014

Drive-By Truckers visit Sacramento

I think I've finally figured out where to place Drive-By Truckers in my personal music pantheon.  DBT is a band that in this century, has put together a catalogue that can really stand with any other artist over that period - "Southern Rock Opera," "The Dirty South," "Decoration Day," "Brighter Than Creation's Dark," "The Big To-Do," "Go Go Boots," and now "English Oceans" - there isn't a bad album in that bunch, and I'd argue that at least two are pretty damn close to being masterpieces.

But it's also pretty evident that DBT are never going to become huge stars; their albums are not likely to threaten multi-platinum status.  They're pigeon-holed as a "southern rock band," although if one takes the time to listen to the music and read the lyrics a little more carefully, it seems pretty clear (at least to this listener) that they transcend that label.  Their sound is rooted in the south, and you can't argue with the fact that so many of their songs address the south, but to call them just another southern band doesn't really do them justice.

For me, they've filled the spot in my pantheon that Warren Zevon held for so long.  An artist that you listen to and think "how can it be that everyone doesn't love this guy/band/artist?"  "Why aren't they superstars?"  "What's wrong with you people?"  But that's OK - they've carved out a spot for themselves, and anyone who's ever been to one of their shows knows how fiercely loyal their fans are.  So if they go down in history as one of those semi-popular, great bands that never quite hit the mainstream, that's OK with me.

So I got the chance to see them Friday night, for the second time, in a small venue (Ace of Spades) that really isn't much more than a glorified bar.  Which, come to think of it, is the perfect place to see a band like DBT.  As evidenced by the picture above, I was able to work my way right up to the front of the stage, within about 8 feet by the end.  Standing for close to four hours (Shovels and Rope, the opening act, started right at 8 and DBT didn't close out until almost midnight) didn't do much for my 54-year old bones, but I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.

Of course, it was a great show, with both Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley in top form.  Cooley is the real star of the new album, and he shone on Friday night with his new songs from "English Oceans," including "Shit Shots Count," "Primer Coat," "Made Up English Oceans," and "Hearing Jimmy Loud, as well as some of his golden oldies like "Pulaski," "Zip City" and "Women Without Whiskey."  Hood was awesome as well, and even though the band has gotten smaller with the departures of bassist Shonna Tucker (replaced by Matt Patton) and guitarist John Neff, they still pack a sizable punch.  It's more of a rock guitar oriented sound now, without Neff there to pitch in on steel every now and then.  And that's OK because keyboardist Jay Gonzalez, as it turns out, plays a pretty mean guitar himself, and on several songs managed to play both.

Another great show, and hopefully there were at least a couple of folks there who'd never heard them before and are now converts.  Because once you get there, trust me - you're never not going to be a DBT fan.

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