REVIEW: The Drive-By Truckers’ Adam’s House Cat Family Values

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In 1987, nine years prior to forming the Drive-By Truckers, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley started another band, Adam’s House Cat. In 1990-91, Adam’s House Cat recorded an album, Town Burned Down, previously unreleased, lost and believed to have been to destroyed. A few years ago, the tapes surfaced. They were baked and mixed, and they can now be heard for the first time.

Town Burned Down is continuous with the Drive-By Truckers’ catalog. One of the tracks on the album, “Buttholeville,” a searing indictment of southern small-city life, also appears on the first Truckers’ album, Gangstabilly. Though this is an archival release,  Hood was not content with merely releasing the record for historical and collectors’ purposes. He wanted to feel confident that the material lived up to the high standards that the Truckers have established, so he rerecorded his lead vocals, which had not been to his satisfaction. Hood’s more polished vocals contrast with the somewhat rawer sound of the earlier material; the first song on the album, “Lookout Mountain,” is a stripped down, acoustic number.

Adam’s House Cat is not the band that made Southern Rock Opera but the seed is there. The Truckers’ relationship to and commentary on the South, in songs like “Buttholeville,” has always been its most powerful material. This summer, I saw the Truckers perform a new, unrecorded song, “Babies In Cages,” about the policy of separating immigrant children from their families in holding them in (let’s call them what they are) prisons. On “Town Burned Down,” Hood already employs this fearless, straight-ahead approach with messy, uncomfortable topics on standout track “Child Abuse,” which opens with “Momma she likes to beat me / Beat me black and blue.”

For Drive-By Truckers fans, this album is an absolute must-have. And frankly, Town Burned Down, even if it’s not the best material from this team, still rocks harder and is more thoughtful than most of what’s on the market. http://www.drivebytruckers.com/

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