It’s been a protracted highway for the Drive-By Truckers. Within the 20-plus years because the Truckers shaped in Athens, Ga., the band has labored with a half dozen members rotating by way of the roster, launched 11 studio albums (plus one other arriving Friday, Jan. 31) and a handful of collections, and seen their inventory rise from “these alt-country guys that sing about good ol’ boy debauchery” to one of the vital revered acts in rock and roll.

The core of the Truckers has alwfays been the twin voices of chief songwriters and guitarists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, and these two Southern boys combine a reverence for the sound of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet with a lyrical darkness and penchant for tales that may be at dwelling in a gothic novel. It’s a heady combine that was additional deepened when a 3rd voice (and third guitar) Jason Isbell joined the band for a trio of fantastic albums between 2002 and 2007.

The tales instructed within the Drive-By Truckers catalog would make good fodder for a gritty HBO drama collection, because the band covers floor from murders to consuming to crooked politicians. They like to inform the opposite facet of tales from historical past or reveal secrets and techniques of their very own household’s previous, and regardless that the subject material is darkish, the music is energetic and catchy (and so they placed on one hell of a stay present).

If you happen to’ve written the Drive-By Truckers off previously as simply one other foolish alt-country act, we at Paste humbly recommend giving the group one other probability. Listed below are 15 songs that exemplify the essence of their profession.

“Heathens” is a rolling nation tune with a bit of Texas outlaw aptitude. It’s a gentler sound for the Truckers, however the lyrics are as robust as any of their discography. “Heathens” is concerning the struggles of compromise, and it appears the slithering slide guitar (which unusually sounds nearly like a woodwind on this music) can be sufficient to hypnotize anybody into settlement. However Hood (or his Ornament Day character) isn’t snake charming anybody right here—he’s working by way of the murky waters of a relationship with all the very best intentions of cleansing issues up, even when he’s in all probability doomed to return to egocentric methods. And whoever his girl is, she’s removed from the primary to name him out: “I by no means had a scarcity of individuals attempting to warn me concerning the risks I pose to myself,” he sings. —Ellen Johnson

The Truckers’ first albums, 1998’s Gangstabilly and 1999’s Pizza Deliverance, are artifacts of a band discovering their voice. The songs are crammed with humor and jovial debauchery layered over fairly simple alt-country licks and many slide guitar. Whereas at first “18 Wheels of Love” appears barebones and straightforward to shrug-off, it demonstrates the band’s ability at constructing a story populated with compelling characters in minimal area. The chorus of “Mama ran off with a trucker” can be catchy as hell, and regardless that it’s sung for laughs it establishes one of many unifying themes of the Trucker’s oeuvre: determined characters making rash selections. The prolonged model right here provides Hood’s autobiographical background to the music. —John Verive

Go Go Boots was the second launch from a spate of recordings that the band made concurrently all through 2009. The band discovered a extra soulful sound for this report, lastly launched in 2011, which attracts on their Muscle Shoals connection (nominal frontman Patterson Hood is the son of celebrated Shoals session man David Hood). The narrator of “Used to Be a Cop” rattles off a litany of misdeeds and remembrances whereas the rhythm part lays down a deep groove shot by way of by twin guitar leads that twist and tangle into a protracted outro, carrying the songs sombre temper by way of the whole seven-minute runtime. —John Verive

Off the 2006 album of the identical title, “A Blessing and a Curse” is a uncooked have a look at emotional breakdown offered as an exciting exhausting rock tune. It seems like a band that’s laying its personal demons naked for his or her followers, and it’s mesmerizing. It truly doesn’t sound very like a Truckers music in any respect (extra just like the late-’90s exhausting rock sound that they rebelled in opposition to), and that makes it all of the extra compelling. With simple exhausting rock licks and heavy guitars, “A Blessing and a Curse” demonstrates that the Truckers will not be beholden to their Southern rock sound; they simply use it as a storytelling device. Hood’s vocals are much more Neil Younger-tinged than regular as he nearly whimpers, “When all of it comes down / There’ll be nothing left to catch you however floor.” —John Verive

The Drive-By Truckers earned their huge breakout in 2001 with Southern Rock Opera, and it’s generally exhausting to know that the refined and layered providing was created by the identical band that so many wrote off as a humours detour by way of alt-country. The double disc is an idea album that tries to clarify not solely Southern rock as a style, but additionally the duality of being from the South—the satisfaction and the disgrace that comes with being born into such a tumultuous area. “The Southern Factor” would possibly as properly be the band’s anthem. Hood’s ragged voice and ’Bama accent lend authenticity as he turns away from the levity of the primary two albums. Hood desires to have fun the South’s glory and tradition whereas nonetheless calling out the injustice and disgrace, and he desires the listeners to know that so much has modified within the 4 generations since Robert E. Lee. —John Verive

Observe quantity two on The Soiled South, “Tornadoes” is a music a couple of pure phenomenon we’re all too accustomed to within the South. Certainly, these distratrous, tragedy-making cyclones sound simply “like a prepare,” and I can hardly consider one other music that captures the nervousness and misery—in addition to magnificence—that arrive with certainly one of these swirling clouds of mud and particles. Patterson describes a selected night time when tornadoes hit his “hometown” and the tragedy that unfolded when a homecoming festivities have been interrupted. In case your small city—Tuscaloosa, Albany, Enterprise, Joplin, the record goes on—has ever performed host to a type of assholes from the sky, this music rings all too true, sadly. —Ellen Johnson

You understand that film Strolling Tall the place The Rock beats up a bunch of Southern gangsters with a two-by-four? That was a remake of a 1973 film of the identical title that instructed the story of the Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser who went to battle with the Dixie Mafia and different Tennessee gangers. “Cottonseed” is a part of a 3 music cycle on the 2004 album The Soiled South that tells Pusser’s story from the opposite facet. The narrator of “Cottonseed” is a nasty man telling his story of crimes and sins, and Cooley pants the person as extra pragmatic than evil. An acoustic guitar is the one accompaniment as Cooley deftly runs by way of some chilling strains (“Someplace I ain’t sayin’ there’s a gap that holds a decide / the final one which I dug myself”), and by the point the music wraps up you may’t assist however share the narrator’s frustration with an hypocritical system. —John Verive

The opening monitor on Brighter Than Creation’s Darkish—an album that noticed the Truckers return to a extra sedate, country-focused sound—begins with gently strummed acoustic guitars and sombre piano earlier than a staccato banjo begins to ring out the melody. The music is ready within the aftermath of a really actual homicide, the 2006 killing of Bryan Harvey. Harvey was a founding father of the 2 man minimalist people/rock band Home of Freaks, and “Two Daughters and a Stunning Spouse” imagines what he skilled “when he reached the gates of heaven” and sees his pals gathered for his wake. It’s a haunting ballad that takes on extra weight understanding the historical past, and it’s one other demonstration that Drive-By Truckers are at their greatest after they draw from the ample properly of actual life ache. —John Verive

Tailored from a poem written by Mike Cooley’s uncle, “The place the Satan Don’t Keep” is a driving folk-inflected fable of backwoods gamblers. It’s one of many Truckers’ extra foot-stomping numbers, as Cooley’s earnest, pleading vocals maintain the music collectively over intense slide guitar licks and a frantic overdriven solo on the finish. The monitor opens the 2004 album The Soiled South, and it foreshadows the album’s extra pressing, pushed sound. “The place the Satan Don’t Keep” drips with the darkish ambiance that the Truckers usually commerce in, and it’s an important instance of how properly the three guitar format labored for the band. —John Verive

A straight-up homicide ballad that tells the story of a preacher killed by his downtrodden spouse, “That Wig He Made Her Put on” is a spotlight of the wonderful album The Huge To-Do. “Was she loopy or simply plain ol’ imply to have gone and executed it?” asks the narrator of against the law that nobody on the town may foresee or perceive. Hood speak-sings the lyrics, which drip with patois because the shuffling drums and staccato rhythm guitar construct a grove beneath. A trill guitar weaves between the phrases and the drum beats, gathering depth and distorting as the story unspools. As Hood will get to the story’s twist, the twin guitar assault swells as a reminder that there are two sides to each story. A Truckers’ signature extended outro concludes the music, and by the point it’s over you’re undecided if the spouse was justified or if she cheated justice. —John Verive

After the intro monitor to Southern Rock Opera concludes its story of commencement night time tragedy set to the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the momentous album kicks off in earnest with “Ronnie and Neil.” The exhausting rock tinged anthem tells the story of Skynyrd recording “Candy Residence Alabama” in response to the skewed perspective that Neil Younger demonstrated in “Southern Man” and “Alabama.” The story goes that Younger and Van Zant shared mutual respect and deliberate to collaborate on a music, however destiny wouldn’t have it and Van Zant was killed earlier than they’d the prospect (that story is instructed in a while the album’s last monitor “Angels and Fuselage”). “Ronnie and Neil” is a rollicking tribute to Skynyrd’s sound, and it’s an important tune even with out the layered meanings within the dense lyrics. It units the tone and expectations for the greatness of the remainder of the Truckers’ most lauded album. —John Verive

The Truckers have by no means shied away from exhausting truths. However in 2016, they—together with the remainder of our nation—have been confronted with a unique form of story, one which’s in all probability so much tougher to inform. “What It Means,” from the Truckers’ 2016 reckoning act American Band, was impressed by the Ferguson protests and the taking pictures of Trayvon Martin. As Hood places it so bluntly and completely, “You don’t see too many white youngsters mendacity bleeding on the road.” He additionally reminds us that racism is systematic, widespread throughout the nation (not simply within the South) and much from “mounted,” as some could have it: “It’s occurred right here / And it occurred the place you’re sitting / Wherever that may be / And it occurred final weekend / And it’ll occur once more subsequent week.” Sadly it’s simply as related now because it was 4 years in the past, and it’s in all probability one of the vital vital songs in DBT’s prolific catalogue. —Ellen Johnson

The transferring finale of 2014’s English Oceans, “Grand Canyon” is an elegy for one of many band’s longtime pals and companions on the highway, Craig Lieske. It’s not solely the very best music on that uneven album, but it surely’s additionally among the finest Truckers songs in a decade. A celebration of the comradery and friendships solid on tour and the indelible marks that misplaced pals depart behind, the monitor is yet one more instance of the band turning ache and sorrow right into a compelling music. Hood’s emotional supply meshes with a medley of acoustic guitar, electrical piano, and plentiful plaintive riffs. The seven-minute opus is changing into a staple at Truckers concert events, and it’s a wide ranging strategy to finish a present. —John Verive

Singer/songwriter Jason Isbell lent his guitar, voice, and songwriting to the Truckers from 2001 to 2007, and one the primary songs he contributed was the title monitor for 2003’s Ornament Day. It’s a sombre story (and a real one from Isbell’s circle of relatives historical past) of a Southern-fried household feud and a cycle of violence that the narrator is attempting to flee. The music waivers between offended, unhappy, and even hopeful, carried by Isbell’s gravel-toned supply and a few guitar solos following within the glorious custom of Southern rock. “Ornament Day” crescendos right into a three-guitar lament because the narrator finds some peace whereas considering his father’s unmarked grave. —John Verive

The penultimate music on Southern Rock Opera’s first disk, “Zip Metropolis” is a poignant Southern love music instructed from the attitude of a 17-year-old boy struggling together with his place in society and his frustrations together with his girlfriend. It checks all of the bins for Truckers songs—exhausting luck characters, whip good lyrics delivered by Mike Cooley in his signature sardonic drawl, and a twin guitar assault that’s laid on as thick as sawmill gravy over supper’s biscuits. The music will embed in your mind like a fishhook and transport you to the 26-mile stretch of Alabama Freeway 17 that runs by way of the Zip Metropolis neighborhood on a darkish and steamy night time. The music segues into the the reverb-drenched conclusion of Southern Rock Opera’s first disc, and any of subsequent 9 songs on the album may even have made this record. “Zip Metropolis” is a excessive water mark on of the the basic rock albums of the 21st century, and it’s a couple of attractive teenager on a booty name. Such is the duality of the Drive-By Truckers. —John Verive

Watch Jason Isbell carry out “Goddamn Lonely Love” in 2011 through the Paste vault:

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