Although Drive by Truckers have never been down and out like the protagonists of their songs, these musicians haven’t exactly driven an easy road either. Last December, Shonna Tucker, their bassist since 2003 and lead singer of a handful of stellar DBT numbers, abruptly left the band. If that wasn’t enough of a rock and roll cliché, the three guitar southern rooted rock band’s equipment truck broke down the night prior to Phoenix, forcing the band to spend the night in the snowy mountain town of Flagstaff waiting for a fix.
With song titles like “The Fourth Night of My Drinking,” “Three Dimes Down,” “That Man I Shot,” and “Self-Destructive Zones”,” Drive by Truckers have always told it like it is: nothing is contrived. Hell, with other tune headlines like “Wife Beater,” “Hell No I Aint Happy” and “Dead, Drunk and Naked,” there is no Facebook style false promotion here. And although Drive by Truckers might fit a sweaty club in the desert better on a Friday or Saturday night bill than a Tuesday eve, they gave the otherwise hipster jaunt Crescent Ballroom a taste of real rock and roll – no kitschy synths or turn-tables this go-around.
Band leader Patterson Hood recently said the band is planning on an "’off’ year with limited touring," with no immediate plans to name a permanent bass player. The new hired trucker, bassist Mike Patton (not the Faith No More Mike Patton) plays his four string hunched over bobbing his head and grinning – very happy to be there – but not well versed enough to step outside his rhythmic circle while, keeping the low end in the pocket with drummer Brad Morgan. And although the band is doing an admirable job of paving forward with their new lineup, there was definitely an important voice missing with Tucker absent. Hood and Cooley are enough of a one two punch to keep the truck moving- Jay Gonzales on keys and John Neff on guitar and pedal steel – keep the Drive by Truckers huge song-book in sturdy hands.
With two lead vocalists rather than the three, Hood plays the adventurous and unpredictable Neil Young to Cooley’s Bakersfield sound leaning Merle Haggard. It was Cooley’s songs that got the best reception from the Skynyrdish “Three Dimes Down” and “Marry Me,” the twangy “Carl Perkins Cadillac” and the cool jaunt “A Ghost To Mostm” to the more cryptic “Where the Devil Don’t Stay.”
However Cooley wasn’t the only one who made a statement as he was quick to whip out some bold political views, not shy about his left leaning support. “This goes out to the fuckers in Georgia that elected Gingrich and the fuckers in Mississippi and Alabama that voted for Santorum. Bring it on motherfuckers,” Hood said in response to the recent Republican primaries.
Hood’s “Aftermath USA” and “Drag The Lake Charlie” captured the spirit of his down and out southern characters and it isn’t a Truckers show with everyone singing the chorus – “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy.” How about that for keeping it real? But nothing keeps it real like Hood’s tell all tale of his concert going youth, “Let There Be Rock” as he and the crowd sang, “And I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd but I sure saw AC/DC With Bon Scott singing, "Let There Be Rock Tour". Rock on!