CoS Exclusive FeaturesHotList 'Em Carefully

Drive-By Truckers’ Top 10 Songs

on March 05, 2014, 12:00am
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As Drive-By Truckers‘ skimpy greatest hits album proves, trying to assemble a best-of collection for the band is a fool’s errand. They simply have too many good songs. Lucky for you, we’re pretty foolish over here at Consequence of Sound. So, just in time for the release of English Oceans (their tenth album), consider this your gateway drug to the rest of the Truckers’ catalog. It’s an easy and unique narcotic to get addicted to, a potent blend of southern rock tropes and nuanced, non-judgmental storytelling that’s unlike anything else on the streets. Of course, those of you who are already hooked will probably disagree with our list, so disagree away in the comments section.

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DJ Blevins
March 13, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Boooo, that list was horrible, I disagreed with about 80% of it, I think that lookout mountain & gravity’s gone are decimated a top 10 for the Truckers

March 13, 2014 at 3:54 pm

What would your list be, DJ? Even though you disagreed, thanks for reading!

March 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Where did all the new posters come from? This thread was dead a few days ago!

Happy to see so many folks who love DBT here.

March 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm

The band posted this article on their facebook page (which was very cool of them), so I’m guessing that’s where all the new discussion is coming from!

March 13, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Ah, word. I was suspecting the Three Dimes Down folks caught wind …

Rick Chenault
March 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Wow so many to choose from but here goes by numerical order,
1. Heathens , always makes me think about the early years of my Mom and Dad’s marriage. “Somethin bout the wrinkle in your forehead tells me there’s a fit bout to be thrown…”

2. Danko/Manuel, sheer beauty and melancholy.

3. My Sweet Annette, That’s the way love goes as Merle might say.

4. Goddam Lonely Love, Beautiful organ, forlorn and lonesome “Well I ain’t really falling asleep; I’m fading to black.’

5. Cartoon Gold, I don’t know why I just love it.

6. Gravitys Gone, how can you argue with a stanza like this;
“And don’t ever let them make you feel
Like saying what you want is unbecoming
If you were supposed to watch your mouth
All the time, I doubt you’re eyes would be above it”

7. I Used To Be A Cop, Peter Gun meets Glory Days and Twilight Zone.

8. Hell No I Ain’t Happy,

“Hell no, I ain’t happy
But I get a little closer everyday
Gonna be a long while before I’m back your way again”

9. I’m Sorry Huston, Shonna comes shining through.

10. Outfit, The struggles of a son and a father and legacies.

March 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Nice list! I admittedly felt a little bad about not including a Shonna song or Rob Malone song. “I’m Sorry Houston” is probably my favorite of hers. I also love “Purgatory Line.” Brighter Than Creation’s Dark is probably the best showcase of her stuff with DBT. I need to check out her band Eye Candy as well. Thanks for readign!

March 13, 2014 at 2:26 pm

IN Number six you use the phrase “our personal O” and Im confused and interested by it. What did you mean?
BTW I also choke up at “Don’t act like your family’s joke”, everytime

March 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Hi there! The O. Henry Award is given out every year to especially good short stories. I’m not sure what the exact process is, but it’s more or less a way to recognize great short-story writing. So I was just using it as a metaphor for one of my favorite stories on The Dirty South (an album that’s full of good stories). Here’s some more info on the award. Thanks for reading!

Kim Hornsby
March 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Great list you compiled! From this Southern female fan’s perspective, I’d make another list to ponder about how things go for some down here in the dirty South: Panties in Your Purse, Love Like This, Wife Beater, Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus), Your Daddy Hates Me, Marry Me, Goddamn Lonely Love, Lisa’s Birthday, The Wig He Made Her Wear, Go-Go Boots, A World of Hurt. On the new album, the lyrics of When He’s Gone and Primer Coat just blew me away. I grew up in northwest GA in a similar area as north Alabama in about the same time period Cooley and Patterson, and they completely nail what it was/is like. I think that’s why I’m so attracted to their songs and the music is just incredible! You must see them live and hope they close with Angels and Fuselage. You will never forget it! There were angels in the trees waiting Ronnie, not ghosts ( but maybe them too). Four of my favorites in your top ten. Thanks for posting the background stories. They make it all the better.

March 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Thanks for reading, and for your thoughts! You’re absolutely right—DBT has always done a great job tackling stories from various perspectives, regardless of gender, race, and class stereotypes. It helps drive home the things that many of us know about the south, but also things that people don’t know. Like any place, it’s much more nuanced than a lot of pop culture has led us to believe. I’ll hopefully get to see the band sometime soon. Would love to see them close with “Angels.” Hell, I’d love to see them play all of Southern Rock Opera (or any of their albums for that matter).

March 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm

If you knew Craig Lieske (inspiration for Grand Canyon) or have lost someone close that was a Truckers fan, Angels and Fuesalage is the most difficult song you’ll ever see performed live. But, like all Truckers songs, it’s incredibly cathartic.

March 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm

@Doctortechnology, did you know him? I did not, but have read nothing but good things.

March 13, 2014 at 3:37 pm

I did. After a few trips to Athens for Homecoming and all the other shows across the mid-west and Northeast, not to mention Toronto, we got to know each other reasonably well. He and my brother, who passed in 2010, had a unique bond too. Angels and Fuesalage into People who Died pretty well leaves me sobbing but like I said, it’s cathartic.

Craig was a great guy and Homecoming last year was soul-crushing.

That’s another element that DBT brings like no other band: that death is a part of life and that’s it’s coming for all of us. They capture it better than any other band I’ve listened to and is a big reason why they are my favorite band.

March 13, 2014 at 3:56 pm

@Doctortechnology, sorry for your loss, but glad to hear there’s some catharsis in your favorite music. I think it’s important to address death so you can deal with what’s probably the hardest thing in life to deal with.

Andrew Keesee
March 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm

The Righteous Path – Goode’s Field Road – Primer Coat – Puttin People On The Moon – Dead Drunk & Naked – Used to be a Cop – Zip City – Bulldozers & Dirt – Margo & Harold – One of These Days -

March 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Which “Goode’s Field Road” do you prefer? The one from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark or The Fine Print?

March 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Great list, hard to argue with any of these. I think Isbell’s best contributions to the DBT catalog are Goddamn Lonely Love and Danko/Manuel. Followed by Decoration Day and then Outfit. With an honorable mention to When the Well Runs Dry. I think a cover should be added, since they throw down on some damn fine covers. Rebels is my favorite cover, followed by Everybody Needs Love. I think Tornadoes could have been swapped for either PPOM or Hell No I Aint Happy, but any of those 3 work. Also in consideration from Patterson would be Sinkhole, Something’s Gotta Give, Little Bonnie, Tales Facing up, Dead Drunk Naked, Company I Keep, Box of Spiders and 9B. I would swap out 3DD and Ghost, not a fan of Cooleys BTCD songs, and replace with 1 of Love Like This or Panties in your Purse and the other would be replaced with either 72 or Sounds better in a song. Others worthy are Women W/O Whiskey, any from English Oceans, Guitar Man Upstairs, When the Pin hits the Shell, Cottonseed and One of These Days. Of course, all of these are just 1 man’s opinion. Maybe we should do a top 10 from each, Patterson, Cooley and Other… Maybe go on to best Cooley Lines, best Patterson shady characters….

March 13, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Great ideas. Maybe I’ll update the doc in the near future with some new categories! Nice list, btw.

Shane Streine
March 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm

DBT saved me!! I was interdicted to DBT on 03. My friend burned some songs onto a cd for me and said check this out. At that time I was going through a rough part of my life. My first wife had left me with 4 boys 2 stil in diapers. I started listening and could not get enough. They brightened my days and made my lonely nights easier to deal with. No other band has touched me they way they have. I connect with their music like nothing else. To try and put a greatest hits album together would be like trying to put all the sunlight in a bag it’s not possible.

March 13, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Glad to hear the music had such a positive effect on you. It’s always great when we can find bands like that. Thanks for reading!

Jeff Cody
March 13, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Lookout Mountain
Ray’s automatic weapon
Why Henry Drinks
Love like this
Shit shots count
Carl Perkins Cadillac
Life in the factory

Very hard to put these and the other greats in a 1-10 order, I basically put this together out of what I think their 20 best…

March 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Love that you put “Ray’s Automatic Weapon” on there. That and “Used To Be A Cop” are probably my two faves from Go-Go Boots.

March 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm

“What used to be is gone and what ought to be ought not to be so hard”….Gravity’s Gone folks…

March 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm

The more I listen to it, the more I think “Shit Shots Count” also has some of the best Cooley stuff.

March 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm

As far as most underrated goes it’s gotta be “Checkout Time In Vegas”. That song is incredible; that may be the only time in human history mentioning a buffet has been poignant. And how great of a metaphor is ” to make sure sin city is shining brighter than creation’s dark”?

It’s a good list and it’s a credit to the group like everybody’s said that picking ten is hard.

Also up there on my list is “Sandwiches for the Road” and “The Great Car Dealer War”.

March 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Dammit, I meant “making sure Sin City shines brighter than creation’s dark”

March 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm

More great choices. “Sandwiches for the Road” becomes even more resonant after the passing of Eddie Hinton. It took me a few listens of “Checkout Time In Vegas” to realize that’s where the album title came from. Another great line from Cooley.

March 13, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Not sure how Danko Manuel and Let There Be Rock were left off this list.

March 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Like I said, lots of good stuff to choose from. If I had made a top-20, they’d both be on it for sure.

March 13, 2014 at 12:23 pm

This compares, sorta, to the old Lay’s potato chips slogan, to paraphrase — betcha you can’t pick just 10. But how can you when it’s almost impossible to pick the best line from a song? “I got 350 heads on a 305 engine … ” is not the best line in Zip City? Really!?!?!

Couldn’t disagree more with your list and thank you for that.

March 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm

You’re welcome!

March 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Also, what would your list be?

March 13, 2014 at 11:56 am

Jason Isbell didn’t play on the record version of Zip City–just sayin’. Otherwise this is a good list.

March 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Ah, you’re right. All fixed. Thanks for letting us know!

Dallas Meidinger (@DallasEmm)
March 13, 2014 at 11:54 am

It may be premature, but Pauline Hawkins would definitely make my list if I were to make it today. I think English Oceans is going to age very well and compare very favorably to a lot of their releases (which is no easy feat).

As for the rest, I’d go with
Ghost to Most (the line you mentioned might be the best line Cooley has ever written)
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
The Righteous Path
Used to be a Cop
Ronnie and Neil
Never Gonna Change
Hell No I Ain’t Happy
Lookout Mountain
Feb 14

And although it isn’t their song, I love their take on Warren Zevon’s Play it All Night Long/Ain’t That Pretty at All.

March 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

There was a brief moment where I considered putting “Play It All Night Long” on here, but decided against it in favor of their original tunes. Still, I love the way Patterson Hood sings “Sweat, piss, jizz blood.” I agree about the new record. It may not be my favorite at this point, but I have a feeling it’s going to age really well.

George Evans Light
March 13, 2014 at 11:35 am

Thinking rapidly and in no particular order: Your Daddy Hates Me, Outfit, Tornadoes, Where the Devil Don’t Stay, Angels & Fuselage, February 14, Sandwiches for the Road, Ronnie and Neil, Life in the Factory, Carl Perkins’ Cadillac. I haven’t listened to the latest record enough yet to qualify any of its songs.

March 13, 2014 at 11:40 am

Definitely some winners on the new album that could make a future list, most notably “Pauline Hawkins” and “Grand Canyon.”

March 13, 2014 at 11:35 am

It says a lot about the songwriting talent of DBT that only two of your picks make my top 10 (“Zip City” is my personal fave, and Where the Devil Don’t Stay is up there as well), although they’re all great songs. I personally prefer Isbell’s “Manuel/Danko” or “Decoration Day” to “Outfit.” And Hood’s output is obviously tremendous. I could go on all day.

March 13, 2014 at 11:40 am

Huge fan of “Danko/Manuel.” In the liner notes, it says that Isbell originally wanted to write a song that covered the wonderful and depressing history of The Band. Would’ve loved to see that too.

C. Jones
March 13, 2014 at 11:35 am

There’s no way I could ever pick a definitive top 10, or 20 and so on and that’s just from DBT Songs. Include Hood, Cooley and Isbell solo stuff and you’ve got some of the greatest music made in the last 20 years. However, through all of the great songs, the one that sticks out to me the most?

World of Hurt

It starts off so dark but the last lyrics, “Remember, it ain’t too late to take a deep breath and throw yourself into it with everything you got. It’s great to be alive.” These are some of the most powerful I’ve ever heard.

March 13, 2014 at 11:39 am

Agreed on those lyrics. Drive-By Truckers are one of the few bands who do the talk-singing thing well (“Days of Graduation,” the middle of “The Opening Act,” etc.). I think Hood has said that “World of Hurt” is his favorite song’s written, yeah?

March 13, 2014 at 11:35 am

Not sure how “Never Gonna Change” and “Sands of Iwo Jima” missed the list.

March 13, 2014 at 11:46 am

I have to be honest—”Never Gonna Change” has never been one of my favorites. It just feels a little more general than Isbell’s typically ultra-specific storytelling. Definitely not a bad song by any means. And that’s just my opinion. I love that everyone has different choices. “Sands of Iwo Jima” is great, and I especially love it for the autobiographical element.

Jason McClellan
March 13, 2014 at 11:32 am

Let There Be Rock!!! Along with Perfect Timing,Plastic Flowers on the Highway,Sink Hole,Two Daughter and Beautiful Wife,The Man I Shot,John Henry, GodDamn Lonely Love,We Ain’t Never Gonna Change,Marry Me. That’s just my 2 cents!

Jason McClellan
March 13, 2014 at 11:55 am

I guess my list wasn’t good enough to warrant a reply.

March 13, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Sorry, I just didn’t see it the first time around! Complete accident. It seems that “Let There Be Rock” is the most popular tune that I didn’t include. A lot of people have pointed out that one. I do love it though, especially where Patterson Hood talks about coming home high and slithering through his friend’s mailslot. Thanks for reading!

March 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm

@Daniel, this is where the live show v. the album portion comes into play. Let There be Rock will melt your face live.

Jason McClellan
March 13, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Just saw Dallas Buyers Club and I immediately thought of The Living Bubba. Perfect Timing is my favorite Cooley song next to Cottonseed. Top 10 is just too short a list cuz no matter how much thought you put into it there’s always a song you’ll forget to include like Daddy Needs A Drink or The Fourth Night of My Drinking or This F*****G JOB and the list goes on and on. My favorite modern band by leaps and bounds.

March 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I haven’t seen the film yet, but when writing the entry on “The Living Bubba,” I was definitely reminded of its plot. Worth seeing?

Pablarberblah (@emulcifier)
March 13, 2014 at 11:27 am

Uncle Frank! Man, that song should be in American History textbooks

March 13, 2014 at 11:36 am

Amen to that.

March 13, 2014 at 11:47 am

Yeah, it’s a pretty realistic and disheartening take on the early days of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which gets a more positive treatment on Isbell’s “TVA.”

Pablarberblah (@emulcifier)
March 13, 2014 at 11:26 am

Cartoon Gold has to be one of the most underrated Cooley tunes. It’s got some of the best imagery of drug addiction I’ve ever seen.
“I’m not good with numbers
I just count on knowing when I’m high enough
A mule with only two legs counting steps toward dangling carrots don’t add up
I think about you when I can and even sometimes when I can’t I do
Once the driver knows you got good sense he takes away the carrots too”…. then the whole bit about Jesus and the dogshit and the flowers.

Cooley’s just the man. Hand’s down.

March 13, 2014 at 11:48 am

Even though “Cartoon Gold” didn’t make the list (it was very close), that definitely has the best Cooley one-liners. Just the title itself is evocative and hilarious. Dog-shit line is priceless too.

Steven Hall
March 13, 2014 at 11:25 am

‘My Sweet Annette’ pulled me in years ago, its a haunting, beautiful song with a spare fiddle and a deep ache in the heart.

March 13, 2014 at 11:36 am

Although I didn’t put it on the list, that was actually the first song I heard by them. Beautiful stuff. Sad yet hopeful.

March 13, 2014 at 11:18 am

Impossie to choose.. Tales facing up, women without whiskey, 18 wheels of love, love like this, the list goes on . I would do a triple disc, one for hood, one for Cooley and one of isbell and others

March 13, 2014 at 11:36 am

Now that’s a best-of collection I’d love to see. Rock and Roll Means Well: The Essential Drive-By Truckers. Maybe the third disc could also include some stuff from Adam’s House Cat.

March 13, 2014 at 11:18 am

Margo and Harold !?!?

March 13, 2014 at 11:35 am

Yeah, I felt a little guilty for not getting that one or “Box of Spiders” on there. Thanks for reading!

March 13, 2014 at 10:07 am

Virtually impossible to narrow this list down to 10 for sure. Not sure how my list couldn’t include “Women WIthout Whiskey”, “Space City”, “Carl Perkins”, “Daddys Cup”….yet I don’t want to remove any from your list. So yeah…impossible. Anyways, great article. Hopefully you’ll make the trip up to Wisconsin for one of the Milwaukee / Madison shows. I’ll be there for both.

March 13, 2014 at 11:34 am

I really want to go to the Wisconsin show, but my theater company’s opening a show that week, so I’m stuck here. I still can’t believe I haven’t seen them live. Thanks for reading! Love “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac.”

March 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

Wait, Daniel, you haven’t seen them live? : 0

March 5, 2014 at 11:01 am

Unfortunately not. My fiance got us tickets for a show at The Vic a couple years ago for Christmas, and I completely wrote down the wrong date for it, then missed them. I bought tickets for last year’s Halloween show, but ended up having to do a play that night. Next time though!

March 5, 2014 at 11:10 am

Understood. Let’s reconvene on the Top 10 once you’ve got a few shows under your belt. I have a sneaking suspicion a few things will change. However, Zip City may very well remain at # 1.

There’s nothing quite like belting out ‘Zip City it’s a good thing that they built a wall around you/zip up to Tennessee or zip right down to Alabama/ I got 350 heads on a 305 engine/ I get 10 miles to the gallon/ I ain’t got no good intentions’ – when Cooley steps back from the mic and the crowd fills in the blanks. Soul affirming rock and roll man.

Maybe you’ll get lucky and CoS will send you to Roo this year. If so, I’ll see you there ; )

March 5, 2014 at 10:37 am

I was confused when DBT weren’t included in yesterday’s list of “remarkably consistent output” but I guess this will do. One of the best bands of our lifetime for sure, and while I don’t agree with the list it’s tough to argue with it just because all of their songs are so damn good. Patterson Hood is a fantastic storyteller and Cooley (along with Craig Finn and Jeff Tweedy) is my one of my favorite lyricists of the past 20 years.

“I don’t know why they even bother putting this highway on the map. Anybody that’s ever been on it knows exactly where their at.”
“My daddy didn’t pull out, but he never apologized. Rock n Roll means well but it can’t help telling young boys lies.”
“I don’t know how much good it does a man to keep on telling him how good it is he’s free.”
“So I’ll meet you at the bottom if there really is one, they always told me when you hit it you’ll know it. But I’ve been falling so long it’s like gravity’s gone and I’m just floating.”

I could go on forever.

And from the new album (which is great):
“Trophy tail wives taking boner pill rides for the price of a happy meal”

March 5, 2014 at 10:44 am

Ah, I can definitely see you’re a Cooley fan from those lyrics. You could probably make a Top-Ten list from his songs alone. “Loaded Gun In the Closet”, “Uncle Frank”, “Gravity’s Gone”, “One of These Days”, and “Self-Destructive Zones” all made the shortlist, but not the final one. Hell, even “Bob” is a gem. Thanks for reading!

March 5, 2014 at 9:20 am

I’m just thrilled to see a post about DBT on here. I’ve been a rabid fan of these guys for years and after seeing them 50+ times, I wouldn’t bother making a definitive list of their top 10 songs but here are a few honourable mentions:

The Company I Keep
Ronnie and Neil
Hell No, I ain’t happy
Let There be Rock (how did you miss this one?!)
Lookout Mountain
Steve McQueen
Marry Me
One of These Days
Nine Bullets

Fuck it … there’s too many. DBT have been one of the best things going in rock for several years now and I hope this new album will bring them to a higher level nationally. They absolutely deserve it.

March 5, 2014 at 10:18 am

Same here, although I’ve missed out on seeing them live twice, unfortunately.

Nice honorable mentions! “One of These Days” is definitely one of my favorite earlier tunes, and I seriously considered “Let There Be Rock”. Like you said, just too many good songs. What are your thoughts on the new album?

March 5, 2014 at 4:34 am

Here’s a lyric from Cooley’s “Birthday Boy” about a prostitute which I think sums up his absolutely intrinsic understanding of the human condition and his ability to boil down the most complicated motivations of our own personal characters through the simple lyrics of the simple characters in his songs, “Between your mama’s drive and daddy’s belt It don’t take smarts to learn to tune out what hurts more than helps”

Like you mentioned, there really are too many songs to boil down into a top 10. Hood’s “Putting People on the Moon” is a pretty great immediate track that rocks, rages, and struggles for understanding in both the lyrics and the music. While the story may be cliche, Hood’s incredible passion and frustration in the vocals brings such a raw and personal dimension to the song also adding the Trucker’s literary flair for local metaphors, in the now gone NASA of Huntsville, make this song and absolute epic. To me it’s the only song that equates to the level of “Born To Run” only it is the “anti-Born To Run” in it’s content and theme, but still seems to evoke that song in it’s spirit to inpassion the listener, which due to Hood’s unabashed love for Springsteen might make sense.

The point is that there are so many amazing Truckers songs.

March 5, 2014 at 10:17 am

Yep, you’re totally right about Cooley’s worldview. Don’t get me wrong; I love Hood’s songs, but Cooley’s tackle things in a way that’s mysterious, colorful, yet somehow understated.

“Puttin’ People On the Moon” was sooo close to being on the list. For me, it was sort of between that and “Tornadoes”, both of which are epic, but in very different ways. I really dig the metafictional element of “Tornadoes”, although “Puttin’ People On the Moon” covers so much ground. I’m not from Alabama, but I’ve always wondered how much the cancer element is true. Knowing Hood, I’m guessing it is (I’ll have to revisit the liner notes). Thanks for reading!


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