Drive-By Truckers “The Perilous Night” (2017)

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It’s not that I don’t care about lyrics; I mean, I do, but only if the song drives them. I’ll take a hard rocking tune over a lot of prose every day. To me, that’s why it’s called music and not poetry (and why, sorry, I never could really get into Bob Dylan). And it’s somewhat rare where I can satisfactorily find both. The Drive-By Truckers are one such case. They’ve been a band for over 20 years and are only getting stronger, with an oft-changing lineup, but two constants, co-founders and fellow songwriters, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. The band’s fierce three-guitar thrash is loud, sloppy, and at times alternately reminiscent of Exile On Main Street Stones and of the classic era of southern rock. And their songs are packed, seriously dense, with lyrics, often telling straightforward, unvarnished stories of the American South, reflective of their Alabama roots. No strangers, either, to hard political stances, on this their latest release, they take merciless aim at the current administration, of whom they are, um, not a fan. For 4-plus minutes, through 12 stanzas, and using lyrics that total 287 words, the Truckers eviscerate The Donald (‘We’re off the deep end with a lifeguard who can’t swim’); Russian meddling (‘White House is glowing from the Red Square light’); the new Klan (‘Fourth Reich in khakis’); and mindless followers (‘Dumb, white and angry with their cup half filled’). But ever importantly, to me, they do it all through a jarringly hard-rocking pace, set in motion by three impeccable opening power chords, from which they never let up. As the song’s titular phrase repeats, ‘We’re moving into the perilous night, Amen. Amen. Amen.’ Righteous indignation rarely sounds this good.


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