Drive-By truckers pass in tour gear, heading to the Englert Theater in Iowa City

If ever there was a musical prism through which the divisive social and political events of the past five years could be viewed from a progressive perspective, the soundtrack would undoubtedly be provided by Drive-By Truckers.

Drive-By Truckers, (L to R) Brad Morgan, Patterson Hood, Matt Patton, Mike Cooley and Jay Gonzalez, are back on the road with a headlining tour, stopping at the Englert Theater in Iowa City Sunday October 10, 2021 (Andy Tenille)

While the Athens, Ga. Group have long been political with their releases dating back to the sprawling 2000s double-album concept album “Southern Rock Opera,” the group has shifted into high gear over the past five years. years, starting with the politically charged ‘American’ of 2016. Band. “The unexpected response to this album generated a tour that was to last for months, instead of years,” said founding member Patterson Hood.

Fast forward to 2021 and singer / guitarist Hood and the rest of the Truckers – Mike Cooley on guitar / vocals, Jay Gonzalez on keyboards / guitar, Mike Patton on bass, and Brad Morgan on drums – prepare to resume the road, having spent the last year and a half away from their usual hectic touring schedule.

Truckers in car

Or: Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday 10 October 2021

Opener: Nichols Ox

Tickets: $ 15 to $ 37.50; englert.org/event/drive-by-truckers-3

Group website: drivebytruckers.com

They did not sit idle, however. They spent that downtime playing virtual shows, getting money from the Payment Protection Program, and relying on the kindness of die-hard fans buying their music from the Bandcamp online site on a monthly basis. They also released a pair of albums in 2020 that formed an organic trilogy with “American Band”.

“Unexpected trilogy”

The first, “The Unraveling,” came out in January and dealt with issues ranging from gun violence (the cheerful “Thoughts and Prayers”) to the Trump administration’s family separation policy (the dark and dark “Babies in Cages”. dirgey).

The December follow-up, “The New OK,” was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that Portland-based Hood experienced firsthand. Hood’s response came from the fact that he noticed that hip-hop and pop artists were the only ones to address these issues with their art compared to “the so-called rock’n’roll (artists) claiming that none of those things were happening. “

“I think we ended up with an unintentional record trilogy, without putting a pretentious slant in it,” Hood said. “It’s not like we sit down and say we’re going to write a trilogy of records bitching about the current situation in our country. But that’s kind of what ended up happening.

“When we did ‘American Band’ we looked at it as a standalone thing that we were going to do and then we were probably going to move on and do something else. We honestly didn’t intend to shoot behind him for three and a half years. As a group known for our Southerness – and we’re obviously a bunch of those white, southern, middle-aged dudes – we kind of fall into the demographic stereotype of Trump. We thought it was important that people like us talk about these things.

With the current state of the world, where musicians who express their point of view through their art are often pilloried for not staying in their lane and singing about more generic and benign subjects, Truckers have been subjected to this kind of contempt from conservative fans. But that’s not something Hood cares about, especially since he and his bandmate and songwriter Cooley have stirred the pot with political dishes dating back to Cooley’s “Uncle Frank” from the album ” Pizza Delivery “from 1999.

“I think we’ve always been political,” Hood said. “I always thought it was obvious. I was a little surprised when people got outraged by “American Band”.

“Some people couldn’t believe we had done this, but we had been doing this kind of thing from the start, you just didn’t care. You just listen to the hook or the guitar riff and you’re like, “It’s like Foghat,” but not quite. This song ‘Slow Ride’ is a little different.

“Before ‘American Band’ came out, there was so much meanness towards us online. We kind of released this record thinking that we were probably going to sell half the records and half the tickets, and that didn’t happen at all. It’s one of our most successful records, ”Hood said.

Registration Marathon

The final two-thirds of this trilogy of albums emerged from a seven-day recording session in 2018 in Memphis as the band drove off the road to the Tedeschi Trucks Band opening over the summer. The opening slot provided an opportunity that spilled over into this record-breaking marathon bout.

“The opening of the Tedeschi Trucks Band has been a wonderful experience,” said Hood. “Every day we had an hour-long scale. Our crew is fast and we are a pretty tight organization. Basically, we got the job done in the first five or 10 minutes, so we were spending that hour putting wood into those songs.

“We entered the studio like a well-oiled machine,” he said. “We cut almost all of ‘The Unraveling’ and two-thirds of ‘The New OK’ came out of this session, and we’re intentionally sitting on three more tracks for this next project which will hopefully be released next year. because they are definitely thematic.

“As a band we often don’t have enough time to go to the studio and record because it’s expensive and we’re definitely a working class band.”

The son of legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, Patterson Hood was bitten by the music bug early on, with memories of his father bringing home the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album when the most young Hood was only 3 years old and he was listening to “Strawberry Fields” Forever “while leafing through the album booklet. Having started writing his own songs when he was just 8, at 16, Hood ran away from home to catch Bruce Springsteen on the “The River” tour, where this marathon show transformed the budding musician.

“It showed me what a gig can be up to catharsis and take an audience to another place, then take them to another place, then another place,” Hood said. “Build right where you were before that. Those four hours were definitely an education in the possibilities of rock ‘n’ roll as an art form.

On the road once more

Fast forward to the present, with the band set to hit the road with their last two albums under their belt, including a stop at the Englert Theater in Iowa City on Sunday night, October 10, 2021.

Hood is quick to dispel any assumptions that viewers will only receive the latest material.

“I don’t really see these records as necessarily being at the center of what we want to do,” he said. “They’re over there and we’ll definitely be playing a few songs from them. I’m proud of the songs, but we also have a pretty comprehensive catalog that we’ve been missing for quite a long time.

“The shows that we played were kind of drawn from all over the place. We’re just having fun reconnecting with each other and our fans. And we actually recorded what will be our next album. We’ll probably start working on some of these songs live and try out a song or two to see how they play out as well. “

He added that he considered it a simple rock ‘n’ roll game.

“As usual, we won’t be using a set list,” he said, “so anything goes.”

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