Bama, Booze, and Boneheads

The Drive-By Truckers inch away from "Southern rock."

If it walks like Southern rock and talks like Southern rock, then it must be Southern rock, right? Well, yeah. Unless the genre intends to hang you.

"We did all get tired of the whole Southern rock thing," says Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, the Alabama fivepiece coming to town this week. "It's like none of us really view ourselves the way that we were being viewed."

The misconception stems from the Truckers' 2001 double album Southern Rock Opera, a sonic landmark that single-handedly resurrected a musical genre that had been left for dead. The record garnered beaucoup attention from both music critics and academics who wallow in the region's seemingly conflicting mysteries and landed the Truckers on a career path as certain as a cross-country train track. The question was, "When, and how, to get off the ride?"

Mike Gorman

Cue A Blessing and a Curse, the Truckers' seventh and newest album — a conscious attempt at redefinition. "We kind of went into it with kind of an agenda of what we didn't want to be," Hood says. "We set out to make a record that kind of went against a lot of the things that we were most known for. We decided early on that we wanted to do a record that didn't really tell a story. We didn't want it to be geographically specific."

Still, a Southernectomy is some highly serious surgery for this band. Though fellow Trucker Mike Cooley's "Space City" (a nod to Huntsville, Alabama) is the lone violator of A Blessing's no-specific-setting rule, the album's title track is yet another in a long line of Bible Belt-indicative signifiers. And then there's the sound. Third guitarist Jason Isbell puts down that third six-string in favor of a more delicate keyboard on occasion, but the Truckers still shred. Lyrics about champagne hand jobs, crystal meth in the bathtub, and sucking on the end of a shotgun remain too damned gritty for any potential backslide over to the country market.

Perhaps the band suffered a collective nightmare of the future as typecast castaways?

"Exactly," Hood says. "None of us really wanted to quite be Gilligan, you know. But it's like an actor. If he does a really good job, if he's really good at his role, he has to overcome. That guy that plays Tony Soprano is going to have a hard time ever not being Tony Soprano in people's eyes because he's played the fuck out of Tony Soprano. And so we wanted to make a record that showcased some of the other things that we know how to do, and it meant kind of taking away some of the things that have become our calling cards." — Rob Trucks

The Drive-By Truckers perform with the Black Crowes and Robert Randolph & the Family Band on Saturday, July 8, at Sound Advice Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 to $49.50. Call 561-795-8883, or visit

Turning Up Sunday

Taking Back Sunday helped to turn melodic, hard-driven rock into a marketable commodity. But along the way, the band has had to contend with lineup changes and the erratic, often self-destructive behavior of frontman Adam Lazarra (booze, drugs, dramatic mood swings, falling onstage, and so on). While bassist Matt Rubano has never been eager to directly discuss the subject, he proved quite talkative during a recent chat with Outtakes about the band's new album, Louder Now.

Outtakes: Lazarra has said that Louder Now is "the record we always wanted to make." Do you agree with that?

Rubano: One hundred percent. We had a lot of time and all the means we could want to make this record. At this point for us, we knew what we wanted to sound like. We knew that we wanted to make a record that listened through as a great story and was really something special. Musically, I feel like this is the best thing I've ever been a part of.

Louder Now is the closest you guys have come to capturing your live show in the studio. Was that a specific goal, to amp up what you were turning out?

I think it's about capturing intensity. Sometimes, when you go to record something, you're so caught up in your headphones, the sound of your instrument, and where you're sitting and staying quiet, you lose a lot of ferocity and frenetic behavior you have while on stage. I think this record really captured a lot of that for us.

You spent some five months working on this album. What motivated the protracted studio time, and how do you think this helped or hurt the album?

It definitely helped. It's not really good to have a deadline on stuff like this, the same way it's not good to have a record take a year. For us, we had the time blocked out, the people we wanted to work with, and nothing else on our mind except making this album. You don't rush something to make it better. We wouldn't put time above good music, ever.

Lazarra has described himself as a "total mess." How do you think his at-times tumultuous behavior affects the dynamics of the band and, consequently, the music you produce?

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