Drive-By Truckers - The Fine Print

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DBT is apparently in "cash in" mode.  Co-leader Patterson Hood already mined the vaults this year for songs left unplayed in his solo offering, Murdering Oscar.  There's also a new CD/DVD of selected songs from the band's appearance on "Austin City Limits."  And they tour almost constantly.

And now this, "a collection of oddities and rarities 2003-2008."  Of the 12 songs, 7 of them are from the period in which The Dirty South was recorded, which was, in my opinion, their best CD as it alone amongDBT - the fine print their catalog as unblemished by any weak inclusions.  So, why offer songs now that didn't make the cut? 

I'll take it track by track - anyone considering a purchase should note that liner notes share some insights as to Patterson Hood's thoughts on each song, which is a good thing.

"George Jones Talkin' Cell Phone Blues" - inspiration can be found wherever, and the subject matter certainly fits DBT's profile.  It's a decent song for those that like the band's new and unimproved country-fried sound.  Steel pedal galore.

"Rebels" - a Tom Petty cover.  Well done and worth a listen.

"Uncle Frank" - a great Cooley song, an alternate to one previously released.

"TVA" - An Isbell song lauding the Tennessee Valley Authority - well written lyrics as always, but unfortunately forgettable as a song.

"Goode's Field Road" - alternate version to the one on their last studio release, and a better one to my ears.

"The Great Car Dealer War" - A subject matter where Hood's intent was good, but where the result is something ridiculous. Better left unheard.

"Mama Bake a Pie (Daddy Kill a Chicken)" - another cover song (Tom T. Hall), perfectly suited to DBT.

"When the Well Runs Dry" - an Isbell song better than anything DBT has released since The Dirty South.  Easily the best song found in this collection.

"Mrs. Claus' Kimono" - further proof that not every idea is a good idea.  It would be a discredit to consider this a Christmas song or even a seasonal song.  But the mention of Santa and Rudy at track #9 of this collection doesn't help the playability of the CD as a whole.  Ironically, if the lyric was modified slightly to feature their typical tortured Southern down-and-outs, it might have been one of their best songs ever.

"Play it All Night Long" - a Zevon cover, done well.

"Little Pony and the Great Big Horse" - interesting once or twice and... Cooley's done worse.

"Like a Rolling Stone" - Dylan cover - not bad, but that doesn't mean it has to be heard.  Ample proof here that what makes DBT great is not their vocals (but rather their cutting social commentary and unabashed use of rock music as a means to convey it).

By my count, that's 6 of 12 songs that I'll enjoy again, which means it isn't just for "completists."  Sadly, even with Santa in the playlist, this collection sounds as good as or better from start to finish than their last two CDs. And with that thought comes the hope that this release doesn't signify that they're a band that has run out of good ideas.

Recommended Track: "When the Well Runs Dry"

Rating: 3 of 5

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