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.