REVIEW: Drive-By Truckers’ “The Unraveling” Is Topical in All the Right Places

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Topical, political, and pissed off in all the right places, the Truckers have added another stellar piece of work to an already robust catalogue working through various aspects of “the southern thing.” Specific time and place become universal in the apt hands of writers like Hood and Cooley. Produced by the band and longtime compatriot David Barbe, the Drive-By Trucker’s The Unraveling is out on ATO records January 31, 2020. Coming on the heels of 2016’s American Band, The Unraveling features the same crew of players that have settled in to DBT version 5.0: Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Brad Morgan, Jay Gonzalez, and Matt Patton.

“Rosemary with a Bible and Gun” eases listeners into this collection with Patterson’s vocal over church hall reverbed piano and a typically dark DBT balance of destruction and hope for salvation. The lead single “Armageddon’s Back in Town” hits with the Truckers’ wall of driving sound. Like a crashing wave the riff hits with southern spit and guitar god bombast as Patterson sings, “there’ll be no healing from the art of double dealing, Armageddon’s back in town again.” Armageddon hits mid-song as the band descends into a cacophony of sound that builds to a disorienting yet cleansing culmination.

“Slow Ride Argument” is one of only two Cooley songs on a Hood dominated album. It’s a classic Cooley rocker until the echoing refrain of “slow down take it easy” takes a radio-ready sonic twist. “Slow ride argument, there’s no going home again,” Cooley sings.

“Thoughts and Prayers” follows and finds Hood appropriately pissed off about the lack of political will to confront the issue of gun violence in American and the emptiness of “your useless thoughts and prayers.” Hood’s critique of modern American life continues on “21st Century” as he paints a picture of strip mall monotony where everything is “all American but Chinese made,” and, “folks work hard for shrinking pay, 21st century USA” over an acoustic lope.

Hood continues his criticism as he confronts the opiate epidemic on “Heroin Again” via a thumping bass line and chopping guitar and the horrors of US/Mexican border detention centers on the spaced out deep southern funk “Babies in Cages” – it is a fittingly filthy and dirty groove. Cooley’s “Grievance Merchants” follows and examines the rise of modern racism in American and the white supremacists that sell hate and sow dissention among the disenfranchised and economically disadvantaged for their own power and profit. Cooley sings, “there’s no shortage when it comes to hearing voices telling him its him that it’s done too…a conspiracy to water down his blood…give a boy a target for his grievance, he might get it in his head they need to pay.”

“Awaiting Resurrection” brings the story of The Unraveling to an end with a final chapter surveying the painful broken pieces of the present while waiting on salvation. Hood’s angry and disappointment is palpable as he sings, “is there evil in this world? yes, there’s an evil in this world”.

The Unraveling adds to the Drive-By Truckers ever expanding body of work exploring what it means to be an American alive today, how to navigate the troubling times we live in, and attempt to finding hope and meaning in a world full of evil. Add to your collection or join the Truckers on their continuing exploration of the American soul; pick up a copy of The Unraveling today. https://www.drivebytruckers.com

 

 

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