La Matera belt is my new favorite.
Inspired by @coslive, @vrcooper, & @tattedup80: Top 10 @drivebytruckers Songs*
Consequence of Sound recently published a “Top 10 Drive-By Truckers Songs" list and Matt Hankins shared a DBT March Madness Bracket on Twitter. I love the timing because of the coincidence with my annual birthday music post - which was already planned to be my own “Top 10 List” for DBT; these other 2 lists inspired concept twists for my list:
This is not a pure Top 10 list. I’m choosing the Top 5 Patterson Hood songs and Top 5 Mike Cooley songs, with a nod to the March Madness “First Four Out” concept. I’m not including any Jason Isbell songs in this list because I’ve come to view the Isbell canon as a totally separate body of work that I mentally categorize as “Jason Isbell & The Drive-By Truckers” to go along with “Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit.”
DBT Top 5: The Patterson Files
- "Lookout Mountain" Ever wonder what Nirvana’s teen angst would have sounded like in a composed, self-aware voice? Hood’s character contemplates what a world without him would be like, George Bailey-style. “Who will end up with my records? Who will end up with my tapes? Who’s gonna pay my credit card bills? Who will pay for my mistakes?”
- "Putting People On the Moon" With a nod to the Gil Scott-Heron poem “Whitey On the Moon,” Hood forces the listener to confront the conundrum of public spending for “putting people on the moon” while many struggle with poverty and hunger in our own streets. Overtly political without being overtly political - Hood does what he does best, relaying a first-person narrative that forces the listener to think critically. To me this song fits perfectly on John Mellencamp’s 1987 album, “The Lonesome Jubilee” in its socioeconomic/sociopolitical perspective. If I had to pick Hood’s single best opus, this might be it.
- "Ronnie and Neil" All over the world they know the line, “I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” Lost in a legendary line from a legendary song is the fact that Neil Young and Ronnie Van Zant were friends and mutual admirers. Patterson tells “the other side of the story” about how the Muscle Shoals community in North Alabama started re-writing race relations in the South during the late 1960s and into the 1970s. On a loud note, it’s my opinion that the opening guitar riff to “Ronnie and Neil” is the sonic blast that saved DBT and propelled them into the forefront of American rock and roll.
- "The Living Bubba" A tribute to Gregory Dean Smalley, a Georgia musician who died of AIDS in 1996 and lent Hood inspiration and friendship at a time when perhaps both were wearing thin in Hood’s life. In the last year of Greg’s life he played over 100 shows. “I can’t die now, ‘cause I’ve got another show to do…”
- "Angels and Fuselage" The final song on Southern Rock Opera, "Angels and Fuselage" tells a haunting first-person tale of knowing the plane is going down and taking the legend of Lynyrd Skynyrd with it. It not only caps the album, but it caps a three song account of Skynyrd’s fateful final night to wind down the epic double album. There is no better way to close a Rock Show. This cut features Booker T on the organ and Brittany Howard on backing vocals.
First Four Out (Hood): "The Righteous Path," "That Man I Shot," "Drag the Lake Charlie," "Bulldozers and Dirt"
DBT Top 5: The Cooley Files
- "Birthday Boy" DBT has an uncanny ability to wrap desperately sad stories in upbeat, poppy rhythms. “Birthday Boy” gives us the prostitute’s-eye-view of power, pain, cynicism, and sociology, but delivered by a male voice. A tremendous juxtaposition.
- "One of These Days" All the requisite elements for a nostalgic song: Lessons learned from a father, making mistakes despite those lessons, and yearning for home. One of my favorite lines of all-time in the crescendo: “One of these days, when my face looks like a roadmap, I’m gonna find my way back home.”
- "Uncle Frank" The TVA is often glorified in the modern reading of American history. It pumped millions of dollars into the economy, put millions of people to work, brought electricity to much of the rural Deep South - it changed the face of America no doubt. There is an untold side to that story; those who were left behind by change because they had not the education, means, or will to cope. I remember the first time I heard this song, as Cooley rambled into the final line of the song, I knew the exact words coming before I ever heard them: “Uncle Frank couldn’t read or write; so there’s no note or letter found when he died; just a rope around his neck and a kitchen table turned on its side…”
- "Marry Me" Cooley is the King of One-Liners. He’s made a career out of throwing knockout punches with his one-liners. “Marry Me” has enough great one-liners to write a book: “Rock & Roll means well but it can’t help telling young boys lies;” “I’d rather be your fool nowhere than go somewhere and be no one’s;” “Marry me, your mama thinks I beat anything she’s ever seen;” “I don’t want anything I done to be nobody’s fault even if they got more money and mouth than they got balls;” “Just because I don’t run my mouth don’t mean I got nothing to say.” This live cut from the 40 Watt Club is from an actual wedding celebration concert!
- "Zip City" I’ll come out and say it: “Zip City” is the greatest DBT song of all-time. I’m not the only one to think so; I’ve heard Patterson Hood himself say on multiple occasions that “Zip City” is his favorite DBT song. Cooley’s capturing of a 34 year old man reflecting on a high school “relationship” is oddly, eerily captivating. It has a simultaneously vicarious feel and deeply personal tinge. One of my heavens on earth is front row at the Rock Show, belting the final words to “Zip City” with everyone in the crowd, “I got 350 heads on a 305 engine; I get 10 miles to the gallon; I ain’t got no good intentions.”
First Four Out (Cooley): "Space City," "72 (This Highway’s Mean)," "3 Dimes Down," "Carl Perkins’ Cadillac"
The Shaped American Sack Suit.