Drive-By Truckers – Ugly Buildings, Whores & Politicians – Greatest Hits 1998-2009

January 01, 1970

(New West)


As one of the more important bands to redefine the Southern
Rock notion for the present millennium, the Drive-By Truckers have staked out a
significant place for themselves over the course of the past dozen years or so.
Though there’s a gaping divide between their rough and tumble reputation and
their commercial fortunes – they’ve yet to achieve the notoriety of, say, a
Lynyrd Skynyrd, for example – the band has produced a pair of prodigious
figures in leader Patterson Hood and in Jason Isbell (a former member who’s now
off on his own), not to mention Hood’s longtime partner-in-crime, Mike Cooley.


And in listening to this best of, culled from the length and
breadth of their vibrant career, their homage to an earlier era couldn’t be
clearer. Exploiting the clichés and popular mythology about rockers and
rednecks, the band created an early indelible conceptual classic with Southern Rock Opera and brought the
legend full circle in its telling anthem “Ronnie & Neil.” Moreover, the
gritty, uncompromising wail they purveyed from then on (early songs “The Living
Bubba” and “Bulldozers and Dirt” were forlorn and tattered) established their
insurgency and defiance. “Let There Be Rock,” also lifted from Southern Rock Opera, sounds like Keith
Richards taking a rare vocal turn at the helm of the Stones, while “Never Gonna
Change” seethes with the weary drawl of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Then
there’s “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac,” which surges as an ode to producer Sam
Phillips, namedropping Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis along the way.
In typical roadhouse fashion, the Truckers made no distinctions between winners
and losers, the straight up and the disingenuous, and songs such as “Outfit,”
“Uncle Frank” and “The Righteous Path” reflect that Southern definition of
ill-fated pride and determination.


While terming this set a collection of greatest hits is
obviously more than a mild exaggeration, it does sum up an admirable body of
work, one due far more attention than a mere cursory glance. Hopefully then, it
will set the stage for greater appreciation, and along with it, recognition
that today’s southern sons can soar just as high as those free birds that
preceded them.


& Neil,” “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac,” “Let There Be Rock” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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