Album Reviews

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

on August 02, 2011, 7:58am
DBT C+
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From Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s humble beginnings as Athens, GA-based band Adam’s House Cat to their present run as highly respected troubadours of modern Southern rock, Alabama’s the Drive-By Truckers have had a long and consistently productive career. The release of Ugly Whores, Buildings, and Politicians: Greatest Hits 1998-2009 is a much-needed, though beginner’s chronicle of the band’s complicated and fruitful track record.

Though the DBT lineup has fluctuated quite a bit over the years, this collection offers a balanced sampling from the band’s first seven albums and the songwriting of its living-legend members: front men Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley and former member Jason Isbell.

Present are classics like the Isbell masterpieces “Outfit” and “Never Gonna Change” and Hood’s howling chronicle of a Southern family’s hardship in “Sink Hole”. Cooley’s “Zip City” and Hood’s “Let There Be Rock” and “Lookout Mountain” show the band’s powerful rock aesthetic—stunning examples for DBT newbies to cut their teeth on. Likewise, “Ronnie and Neil” schools newcomers with a classic rock history lesson on the mythical feud between Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd, a mere introduction to the band’s clever storytelling. The greatest hits collection closes powerfully with an alternate version of “Uncle Frank”, trailed by Hood’s honest adage “A World of Hurt”.

Noticeably absent are DBT staples that show their best chops—gems like ballad of economic hardship “Puttin’ People on the Moon”, Hood’s autobiographic “18 Wheels of Love”, Cooley’s “Where the Devil Don’t Stay”, and the anthem for Southerners bored of stereotypes in the duality of “The Southern Thing”. With such a brief track listing trying to cover such an expansive career, not all fans can be appeased.

Ugly Whores, Buildings, and Politicians serves as a concise outline for fans new to DBT’s brand of rock. But the crucial takeaway message is that one must delve deeper into the Alabama axe-wielders’ catalog to truly taste their greatest hits. Therein lies the real fun.

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Stefan
August 3, 2011 at 7:08 am

I’ll just add that the Truckers aren’t Southern Rock. While they most definitely include southern issues, towns, chracters and family in their songs they more so resemble what the Stones were doing between ’68-’72. Southern Rock tends to be pretty limited in its scope and dynamics. Usually it can be defined as a soul song infused with rock, or a country song infused with rock, or a mix of any of those variables. Not that the voices of Southern Rock weren’t distinctive, I mean the Allman Brothers sound like the Allman Brothers and Little Feet sounds like Little Feet, but really when you step far back it is pretty clear it’s just a different band’s take on the same style. Technically it can be pretty impressive and is most always hugged in some sweet groove, but musically I don’t think it is as impressive as what the Truckers are doing. Like the Stones they have that rare band intuition that should have the trappings of groove and southern rock (traditional song style, loose chording, guitar interplay, piano/organ fills, ect…), but they are able to reign it in to a concise song structure. Bands with this ability are rare (especially these days) and are the reason I love the Truckers so much. Together as a unit they bring something very unique to the table that enhances each song. The result transends the “mash up” idea of country infused rock, soul or whatever and just like the Stones it becomes more a country (soul or rock) structured song with that intangible and singular Truckers approach. A group like this only comes around every so often, I can’t name one band in the last 10 years that can even stand next to the Truckers in this regard, and I think the collection deserves at least a 4 or 4 1/2 

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