This is Trucker country.
Drive-By Truckers, playing Friday at The Cannery, consists of (L-R) Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood, Jay Gonzalez, John Neff, Brad Morgan.
A mere two weeks ago, former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell performed a sold-out, acoustic show at the Franklin Theater.
Among the faithful in attendance, it was evident that Isbell’s solo work held its own, but songs like “Outfit” and “TVA,” which were written during his Trucker era, had the crowd at their highest peak.
Tomorrow night, the Drive-By Truckers will start a two-night stand at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom, building on what has become an annual stop to the midstate. Last year, they performed at the Cannery and Third Man Records within the same weekend.
One constant of their live show is the boisterous energy that is exuberated among the band and crowd. There’s a good chance there will be a bottle of Jack Daniels tossed around on stage, and when the first notes of “Lookout Mountain” hit, the crowd will know the ante is upped for Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley to take the performance to the next level.
After 11 albums with last year’s Go-Go Boots, the group has maintained a certain vigor and new-found creativity in their latter work, which has added to the band’s longevity and its storytelling of the gothic South.
Shedding the Southern rock moniker of the early days, exploration of Hood’s Muscle Shoals upbringing and country and soul sounds have highlighted albums such as Go-Go Boots, The Big To-Do and Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. During the span of these albums, the group has also recorded with Booker T. Jones and Bettye LaVette.
Filmmaker Barr Weissman caught the group at a crossroads and the beginning of this new era in the documentary “The Secret to a Happy Ending.”
After a marital split between members Isbell and Shonna Tucker, Isbell later left the band and started his own solo project. The group pressed on and recorded this string of albums, all the while making the collective as transcendental as the hard-luck characters of their songs.
In the end, they had to press on their way. The music and the band is all they knew how to do, and it’s what they do best – tell the stories of a culture, region and characters that are part of the South and its beauty and bizarreness. They speak of its truths and expose its flaws, but they do it in a way that is promising and relative to anyone who grew up in this region.
In the same manner, there is a symbiotic relationship that exists because music needs the Drive-By Truckers as much as they need it. There are not many bands that have come along to take the reins and steer it the way the Truckers do.
This weekend’s shows will be bittersweet of sorts because Tucker left the band around last year’s holiday season as witnessed through a letter on the band’s website. Longtime friend of the band David Barbe will be holding down the low end on the current tour, which began in the southeast before heading west next month.
The group has planned on doing less touring along with recording a new album, so it could be another calendar year before you get to see the Truckers in the area again.
For more information, visit drivebytruckers.com. For ticket information visit mercylounge.com.