Drive-By Truckers–American Band

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Spotify saves the day again, or at least the $10 I used to spend confidently for a new Drive-By Truckers CD.  American Band, their latest release, has gathered significant pre-release attention for its intent to be a political album in an election year season of extolling the intolerable.  Rolling Stone comments AmericanBandthat “The result is more than a Clinton ad with Skynryd and Stones guitars… It’s political rock that never confused passionate commitment with smug certainty, asking more questions than it answers…” 

That’s a particularly apt description actually.  The band has long been able to craft their messages so that they’re spoken through relatable characters in difficult circumstances expressing an oughtness to life.   There are problems though.  The first is that while the narrative mines ample headlines for examples of “society gone wild,” it just echoes the frustrations of the political left (or right) that the change that was promised never arrived.   Well, DBT, write about this, then.  You get what you pay for in politics, and it’s not the American citizen that’s paying.  And, politics doesn’t change the hearts, minds and souls of men, it just fractures the willingness of people who think differently to work together.  

Failed or hopeful ideals are expected among artists though; they’re a mirror of our times.  Pointing out questions without having answers is par for the course.  Awareness.  Education. Challenges to how a person thinks.  It’s all good.  You take that and put it on a music CD and, well, there’s this other expectation – a worthy musical vehicle to carry the message.   And it’s here that DBT is failing.  The band has seemingly convinced itself that their audience, as middle-aged as they are, is tired of screaming guitars and rock and roll aggression.   They’re wrong, and hopefully they’re prepared for the consequences of posturing as folk singers when being a rock and roll band is what pays the bills.  There isn’t a musical ear worm in the bunch, and the band’s two vocalists, who are always at their peak with raw expression, have somehow decided they are actually singers.   So, sadly, this CD, like a newspaper editorial, is as timely as today and as enduring as yesterday’s news. 

Suggested track:  “Baggage”

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