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Coachella 2009: Cracking bottles with Drive-By Truckers

April 18, 2009 |  5:31 pm


If the Drive-By Truckers are correct to say that the proverbial bottle "don't make you do a thing, it lets you," then what was that handle of Jack Daniels on the Outdoor Stage letting them tap into? Another exquisite set of bar-brawl Southern rock, of course. The Truckers are a perfect festival act, with a three-guitar posse that looks great across a field and sounds even better with a flat pint of beer and the beginnings of a sunburn (both things I have in my possession now). Now that they've had some time away from the whole Skynyrd mythologizing business, DBT is one of few bands that can rightly claim to be pushing Southern rock forward as a distinct beast from country music.

Brasher cuts like "The Righteous Path" can use images like grounded boats, tax problems and beckoning 24-packs to earnestly engage with rural American pathos without being treacly or condescending. This stuff is Nashville's buttered bread, but they lard it with melodrama that's oddly hard to relate to. But the Truckers approach Real People Problems with lyrical and musical wit, not gags or pulverizing seriousness. It helps that they can all play the dickens out of their instruments, particularly bassist Shonna Tucker, who holds their low end in lockstep along with a brassy vocal range. In the wrong hands, a road-dog song like "Hell No, I Ain't Happy" would be a Bob Seger retread, but coming from the Truckers on a beaming Saturday afternoon, it was as refreshing as a tallboy straight from a bait bucket full of ice.   

-August Brown

Photo of the Drive-By Truckers in action by Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times