Saturday, May 08, 2004

I have now confounded at least two co-workers by telling them I like Mike Cooley's songs more than those of Patterson Hood in the Drive-By Truckers. Co-worker No. 1 was left slackjawed and nearly speechless -- he literally said, "I don't know what to say about that." Co-worker No. 2 laughed uproariously when I told him about No.1's reaction, then stopped suddenly and said, "I'm a bit astounded too."

All this has come about because I saw Drive-By Truckers for the third time two nights ago at Lincoln Theatre. I need to start writing in this thing as soon as I get home from a show, because I had so many brilliant ideas upon which to ruminate, but now can't remember that much. Anyway, my opinion, as expressed to Co-worker No. 2, was that I just like Cooley's deep countrified voice more. Plus Hood's songs seem too self-consiously redneck to me. In some ways his songs remind me of the writings of Clyde Edgerton, whose work I simply can't stand. Both come off as Southerners from priviledged backgrounds trying to write from a white trash perspective. Of course, I don't know Patterson Hood. He could have grown up dirt poor in a trailer for all I know. But even if that's the case, his songs still feel a little bit contrived. Co-worker No.2 countered that Hood is a storyteller; things are going to go over the top occasionally. Considering the brilliance of the Southern Rock Opera, I had to concede.

Unlike my feelings toward Clyde Edgerton's novels, I generally do like Hood's songs, especially when he's performing them live. DBT are at their best on stage because that's where they seem most at home. Thursday's concert felt like a homecoming, with fans making their own videos and recordings, and Hood giving props to people he knows in the area. They were even loose enough to perform a rocking version of "Hey Ya." The band's musicianship, which took a flying leap when guitar player Jason Isbell joined the band, has been bolstered even more with the addition of former Muscle Shoals session bass player Shonna Tucker. Co-worker No. 1 and his wife were at the show, staring raptuously at the stage and bobbing their heads to the music. I didn't want to shock him again by telling him that when it was Cooley's turn to sing, it reinforced my preference for his songs.

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