Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera8/2005

Southern Rock Opera is a two-disc, three-guitar rock opus about bands, booze, and life and death in the American South. Bandleader Patterson Hood calls it an examination of misconceptions about the South and a study of modern-day Southern mythology. Paced like a movie and loosely inspired by the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd, this release is where DBT hit its stride. The band left behind gimmicky songwriting and sophomoric jokes and grew up to make smart, raw, modern Southern rock. From “Women Without Whiskey:” “You know the bottle ain't to blame and I ain't trying to / It don't make you do a thing it just lets you / When I'm six feet underground I'll need a drink or two / and I'll sure miss you.” Six years in the making, the album starts big with a car crash, "Days of Graduation," and ends bigger with a plane crash — the haunting “Angels and Fuselage,” a sad and disturbing 8-minutes that detail the final thoughts of a musician as his band's plane loses its engines, goes quiet and plunges into a swamp. (Released in 2001)

This was a capsule review included in a rundown of releases that are better listened to as complete albums rather than individual songs. Most of that week's A&E section was dedicated to looking at the idea that the album as the primary way to buy music might be dying.

By Bill Keaggy | Originally published in the A&E section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 28 Aug 2005i am