CD reviews: Drive-By Truckers and Jay Farrar: CDs prove the South will rock once again
On their brilliant double-disc dissertation, "The Southern Rock Opera," the Drive-By Truckers pontificated on the duality of "the Southern thing" -- simultaneously embracing and distancing themselves from a legacy of Bear Bryant, George Wallace a...
On their brilliant double-disc dissertation, "The Southern Rock Opera," the Drive-By Truckers pontificated on the duality of "the Southern thing" -- simultaneously embracing and distancing themselves from a legacy of Bear Bryant, George Wallace and Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
On their follow-up, "Decoration Day," the Truckers have downshifted from an epic in favor of 15 Faulknerific, Southern gothic short stories while still offering a heaping helping of deep-fried classic rock.
Patterson Hood's gravelly voice belies his deft touch as a lyricist. He ranges from a 1933 groom who runs off with the bridesmaid on "My Sweet Annette" to the beleaguered touring musician on "Hell No, I Ain't Happy" and the angry foreclosed-upon family farmer on "Sink Hole."
In particular, Hood shines on the dark opener, "The Deeper In." The tale of a brother and sister jailed for consensual incest, Hood doesn't vilify, but is strangely effective in humanizing the case.
Hood prefers the plight of the tortured, twisted soul, but the Truckers take turns navigating this dark stretch. Guitarist Jason Isbell narrates a bloody family feud on the seething title track, but also offers a bright spot when a blue-collar father advises his son, "Don't worry about losing your accent/Southern men tell all the best jokes" on "Outfit."
Jay Farrar also came from small-town, blue-collar roots when he formed Uncle Tupelo, but since the band broke up in 1994, the singer/guitarist has traveled the back roads of the South and beyond.
A decade later, Farrar is still crisscrossing those dusty tracks on "Terroir Blues," an earthy, mostly acoustic mix of country, blues and rock.
In Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, Farrar sang elliptical, historical vignettes from the Civil War battlefield at Chickamauga, Ga., to the flooding of St. Genevieve, La.
He shows traces of past songs like "Windfall" on "No Rolling Back," but his experimentation with loops and different sounds is more akin to what his fellow Uncle, Jeff Tweedy, is doing in Wilco.
Farrar breaks into a bluesy-slide stomp with "Fool King's Crown," but his over-processed vocals are murky at best. He plays his best hand as a singer/songwriter on the mournful "Hanging on to You" and "California," which doubles as a pedal steel-soaked open letter to the Golden State's department of tourism.
On "Terroir Blues," Farrar has ditched the map and sometimes, it seems, the road. It's hard to keep up with him on the long haul, but his musical postcards are always off-beat and enlightening.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533