Revitalised after the enforced lockdown, Drive By Truckers roar back in fine form.
After three albums which reflected on the angst ridden and perilous state of the USA and then an enforced hiatus due to the pandemic, Drive By Truckers took advantage of the new normality to reconvene in Athens, Georgia, essentially to rehearse and get the band back in gear. It transpired that as the batteries were being recharged, the creative juices began to flow and pretty soon, the songs on ‘Welcome 2 Club XIII’ were in the bag, the basic tracks recorded over three days with some minimal tinkering added later.
With Trump out of the picture for a while, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have indulged in an album of songs which is tinged with a slightly melancholic air of nostalgia (not for Trump we should emphasise), harking back to much earlier days. The title song is a salute of sorts to a rundown venue where the pair used to play in their days as Adam’s House Cat, in between acts such as a Foghat tribute band. It’s a loose limbed, bar band like number which paints a grimy picture of rude doormen and spandex clad patrons drinking penny beer and cheap champagne, the band just one of the many pretty much ignored as the liquor flows. You get the feeling that The Truckers might love playing this song, revelling in their rise from such pit stops but, tucked away as it is in the middle of the album, it’s overshadowed by the remainder of the songs.
The album kicks off with an ominous grumble of guitars on the dark prowl of ‘The Driver’ in which Hood recollects snapshots of life on the road, pre and post fame. Youthful urban night crawling and later continental ramblings are riddled with peril and captured in portentous images as the band grind on, dark and dangerous. Schaefer Llana’s voice on the chorus is the only light here. It’s followed by one of the album’s highlights, the quasi psychedelic churn of ‘Maria’s Awful Disclosures’, a Cooley song which burns with a feverous delirium regarding infanticide. Here, The Truckers are on fire with the song burning itself out on a glorious firework display of backwards guitar mayhem and there’s more mayhem in the horn assisted ‘Every Single Storied Flameout’. Dialling it right back, ‘Billy Ringo In The Dark’ is slow burn country rock with brief sparks of incandescent guitar and ‘We Will Never Wake You In The Morning’, a eulogy of sorts, glides just perfectly. The album closes with memories preserved in aspic on ‘Wilder Days’ with Hood singing, “In our wilder days we were invincible and unafraid… we had the gods on our side.” As nostalgia goes, it captures that youthful sense of abandon and, as Hood says, invincibility, while the band play it in a wonderfully understated and serene manner, resisting any temptation to ramp it up into anthem like signalling. It’s a fine way to wind up an album which finds The Truckers’ less politically minded but still deadly serious.