Country music is rendered eclectic on American Band, the fantastic new album by the Drive-By Truckers. On it, the Athens, Georgia alt-country troop push the limits of their genre with arena rock riffs, Memphis soul melodies, bluesy piano playing and more.
Case in point: "Kinky Hypocrite," not only a solid tune but boasting the year's best song title. It sounds like a long lost CCR classic, thanks to its deeply soulful grooves juxtaposed by bluesy, upbeat riffs.
"Ever South," is another standout due to a bass line thick and sticky as southern molasses. Singer Patterson Hood's reedy rasp encapsulates the plight of America's early Irish immigrants who made their way across Appalachia despite being unwelcome. The historic injustices of that song are compellingly juxtaposed by "What It Means," a modern Americana anthem featuring bare bones acoustic strums and faint but distinctive stomping percussion as Hood sings: "Barack Obama won and you can choose where to eat/ And you don't see too many white kids lying bleeding in the street."
Fascinating as the contrast between those songs are, even greater sparks have flown between the opposing styles of Hood and his fellow Truckers frontman Mike Cooley, the latter being as enthralling and cryptic a lyricist as the former is eloquently pointed. Cooley showcases his deftly distinct lyricism on "Once They Banned Imagine," which features the fantastic line: "He had his heartstrings down, ripe for the yanking." From such imagery rife lyrics, to the powerfully political one liners, to the genre defying breadth of its music, American Band's every facet is enthralling and heart wrenching as the storied history and uncertain present of the nation referenced in its title. The only better moniker for a release of this caliber would have been: American masterpiece.
Drive-By Truckers perform at The Fillmore on Nov. 12. Tickets are $18.75-$25. To purchase tickets to the show, visit fillmorecharlottenc.com.