Favorite Drive-By Truckers Albums

DBT is playing at First Ave next week. As a countdown to the show, I offer my five favorite albums. I am not a music critic, so these are just based on my preferences.

5.The Fine Print (A Collection of Oddities and Rarities)
This may be the spot for their new offering English Oceans, but I think I need to listen to it more before I am sure where exactly it fits. The 2009 release TFP is a collection of previously unreleased tracks. It lacks the flow of most of their albums, but I really like the good stuff. There are some really good covers on this album, including my favorite track “Mama Bake a Pie (Daddy Kill a Chicken)” and a  cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” that a lot of people don’t like but I think is enjoyable.

4.Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
There is a lot on this 2008 album. It’s all very good, but there don’t seem to be the standout tracks that are in the top three albums. Highlights for me are “I’m Sorry Huston” (love Shonna Tucker’s lead vocals), “Bob” (“Robert ain’t exactly scared of women, he’s just got his own way of living”), and “The Righteous Path.”

3. The Dirty South
TDS

There is, I think, a significant gap between #4 and #3. I also generally find the top three interchangeable in order, so this list is a little fluid in my mind. The top three, though they were consecutive releases, each has a distinct feel. TDS highlights the alt-country side of the Truckers. The album has some good rockin’ tracks like “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” and “Lookout Mountain,” but the real strength to me is the story telling in tracks like “Tornadoes” and “The Sands of Iwo Jima.” Bonus for having the best cover art.

2. Decoration Day
So many good tracks, it’s hard to choose. 2003’s Decoration Day includes the best of Jason Isbell’s brief run with the Truckers (“Outfit” and “Decoration Day”), Mike Cooley at his song-writing best (“Marry Me”), and Patterson Hood doing what he does (“My Sweet Annette” and “(Something’s Got To) Give Pretty Soon”). Topics covered on this album include marriage, divorce, suicide, and incest. There isn’t a bad track on the album, and its the one I listen to when I’m feeling the most country.

1. Southern Rock Opera
SRO
A double album released in 2001, Southern Rock Opera combines the real-life story of Lynyrd Skynyrd with a fictional southern-flavored coming-of-age story based in the late 70’s. I knew the concept before I listened to the album and was skeptical, but it works. The three-guitar sound works perfectly throughout, and the ongoing theme of the duality of “The Southern Thing” is a history lesson on all things from a southern perspective, spanning historically from Hood’s great-great-grandad who was wounded at Shiloh to George Wallace’s death (sung by the devil welcoming Wallace to hell in “Wallace”). Other highlights include “Ronnie and Neil” – an attempt to offer some perspective on the “rivalry” between Ronnie Van Zandt and Neil Young; “72 (This Highway’s Mean)” – a beautifully depressing country song; “Life in the Factory” – a bio of Lynyrd Skynryd with just the perfect guitar riff for it; “Shut Up and Get on the Plane” – the best of a trilogy of songs about the plane crash that killed Van Zandt; and my favorite DBT track “Zip City” – the perfect combination of guitar solos and lyrics that captures the teenage mind:

I got 350 heads on a 305 engine
I get ten miles to the gallon
I ain’t got no good intentions

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