Drive-By Truckers - Welcome 2 Club XIII (ATO Records)

Drive-By Truckers – Welcome 2 Club XIII (ATO Records)

I’m having trouble getting my head around the fact that Drive-By Truckers have been around now for more than a quarter of a century! Granted, I was something of a latecomer, like many folk only discovering them on the magnum opus that was Southern Rock Opera, but even THAT was 21 years ago, yet I still think of them as a ‘recent’ band!

I guess the timeless quality of their records helps. This time around they’ve mostly eschewed the socio-political stuff that has been a common theme throughout their career, most notably on 2016’s American Band (which bizarrely upset the more ‘redneck’ contingent of their fan base even though the band’s left-leaning tendencies were ever present if they’d bothered paying attention).

Opening track ‘The Driver‘ must surely rank up there with DBT’s greatest ever songs. Patterson Hood‘s ominous spoken word juxtaposes beautifully with Mississipi artist Schaefer Llana‘s haunting vocals, on a number that recalls Lift To Experience‘s The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. It’s seven minutes long, and it’s seven minutes of perfection.

The band’s ‘other’ frontman Mike Cooley contributes ‘Maria’s Awful Disclosure‘ next with his trademark of cleverly fitting what seems like WAY too many words in each verse but somehow making it sound effortlessly poetic. Cooley is one of my favourite lyricists and the line “written pornography tailored to readers in need of a righteous excuse to indulge” is just sublime. Although I’m not 100% sure he does say ‘indulge’. Either way, it’s a beauty.

The title track sees Drive-By Truckers move in an entertaining glam-rock direction and is simply tremendous fun – a boozy singalong with verses that run “Tonight we’re gonna be entertained / by our favorite Foghat cover band / and Radio Tokyo / playing Sweet Home Afghanistan.”  And this is the rub – ‘Welcome 2 Club XIII’ comes closer than any track from any of their previous half-dozen albums to reinstating them as an optimum good time band. Just listen to the euphoria of ‘Every Single Storied Flameout‘ for further such evidence.

That said, this is in stark contrast to the dark and moody ‘Wilder Days‘ that closes the record, Hood’s voice wavering and vulnerable,  otherworldly guitar bursts piercing the atmosphere here and there, creating an uneasy feeling and evoking emotions similar to that of ‘Baggage‘ which brought the curtain down on the aforementioned American Band, before turning into a blissful appreciation of halcyon days gone by.

The wistful, carefree sounding ‘We Will Never Wake You Up In The Morning‘ and ‘Forged In Heaven And Hell‘ both seem to be steeped in the happier memories of the past, which in turn makes you smile yourself, as you recall the most joyous snapshots of moments in your own life. Indeed, this record can be interpreted as a concept album of sorts – a kind of musical journal kept during the band’s earliest beginnings.

This is what Drive-By Truckers do best – evoke strong emotions in your inner psyche while making sure you’re also having a damn good time doing so. I love it when they get political, especially as I’m on the same page, but Welcome 2 Club XIII proves, if proof were still needed, that they’re equally adept at throwing a party.

Welcome To Club XIII is released on 3rd June through ATO Records.

  1. Mmm I would maybe revisit a couple of these songs and your analysis of them. You’re describing songs with dark and tragic story lines as evoking smiles and being fun party tunes.

  2. I agree with Anon above.

    I am VERY pleased you like the record; it is a very, very good record. But neither “Every Single Storied Flameout” or “We Will Never Wake You Up…” are reflected thematically accurately in the review.

    I know it’s easy to miss when on deadline. But the meanings are pretty clear here, especially with “We Will Never…” It’s a song about someone in the throes of and end result of addiction. (“The door was opened by the cops/but you were up above the treetops”).

  3. Thanks both. I do intend to delve much deeper into the album in the coming weeks. In all honesty, this year has been one of personal turmoil for me, for a variety of reasons. As a result, much of my reviewing in 2022 has been of a far more casual nature than usual and I guess this is one occasion that the true meanings have unfortunately passed me by in what limited time I have had to listen.

    Thank you both for your input I look forward to properly getting to grips with it.

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