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The Drive-By Truckers at the Bowery Ballroom


Never Saw Lynyrd Skynyrd


by Ken Mondschein



p>Look in the heart of the American South, and you'll find a darkness there. I'm not talking about the New South of suburban Atlanta strip malls and Ford pickups and air-conditioned Baptist megachurches here, but the sultry, sticky, suffocating darkness of a William Faulkner novel. The Drive By Truckers are a Southern rock band pure and simple, and they know that heart of darkness because they drank it in with their mothers' milk. They're not young, they're not pretty, and they know what it's like to be a working musician on the road for years, wondering if it will all pay off. Listen to their music, and you'll know what it's like to grow up in a place where Jesus Christ and your hormones are locked in mortal combat for your soul, where getting your driver's license at 16 is to taste the asphalt ecstasy of freedom, and where Johnny Cash sits at the right hand of God.

The Truckers are best first encountered live, which isn't to say anything bad about their CD, but simply to point out the energy they bring to each and every song can't be captured and replicated by digital equipment, no matter what the RIAA's lawyers might think. This must have been what it was like to see Springsteen at the Stone Pony, before he got big: Satanicide had just played the set before them, but the few thousand people in the Bowery Ballroom on Halloween night were there for DBT and DBT only. They got what they paid for: The Truckers played for hours, and then came back for a two-hour encore, as if playing on stage in front of a bunch of screaming, drunk maniacs was what they'd been born to do.

DBT's line-up boasts three guitarists, all of whom also contribute vocals. Even more remarkably, the lean man of the band, Cooley, manages to channel both Keith Richards (playing) and Mick Jagger (singing). We don't know if this bears any relation to his prediliction for dressing in drag. (And no, officer, that man did not expose himself to the audience.)

Particular highlights in the show were "Sinkhole," "Marry Me," and, of course, "Let There Be Rock." The mulletted bouncer also insisted I mention their cover of that nice Jewish boy Alice Cooper's "Eighteen." It was the longest single set I've seen in my life, and I wouldn't have been surprised if they topped it off by getting up on Sunday and running the marathon.

So, do check out the Trucker's Web site. They have lyrics and guitar tab there, and you can download a few songs and buy their latest album, Decoration Day.


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Posted November 2, 2003 10:15 PM






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