Athens, Georgia, Drive-By Truckers group coming to The Burl

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The Drive-By Truckers, from left Brad Morgan, Jay Gonzalez, Matt Patton, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, will be at the Burl in Lexington on April 18.

Last week, Patterson Hood found himself at home.

The City: Athens, Georgia, for decades one of the most musically fertile epicentres in the South. Among his many artistic exports is Drive-By Truckers, the hard rock but socially aware band he co-founded a quarter of a century ago.

The Place: The 40 Watt Club, the famed musical hangout that, in five locations across four decades, has served as the launching pad and/or base for nearly all of America’s most adept rock troupes Athens. Among them: REM, Les B-52, Vic Chesnutt, Pylon and Montreal.

The Occasion: An annual performance rite of passage called HeAthen’s Homecoming where the Drive-By Truckers, now accustomed to playing bigger clubs, theaters and festivals, squeeze into the modest confines of the 40 Watt Club with their biggest fans. ardent and return to their roots.

“We’ve been doing these homecoming shows for 21 years,” Hood said. “We have fans who come from all over the world. Several are here every year, so the sense of community they have created has been remarkable.

“The 40 Watt Club has always been important to us. It can hold maybe 700 (the venue’s website claims 500), but I remember when we drew maybe 175. Today it’s a smaller venue than which we used to play, but we still like to do shows there every year. ”

Last week’s HeAthens celebration was originally scheduled for January, but was postponed due to – what else? – increasing number of winter COVID-19 infections in Georgia. Unfortunately, truckers are used to pandemic interference. They were supposed to return to Lexington for a concert in April 2020. Guess what happened.

“We were three weeks into a tour that was supposed to last 15 months,” Hood recalled. “Then we had to go home.”

New albums released

Tour tanking came at a precarious time for the Truckers. Beginning with 2016’s “American Band” album, the already fervent progressive streak in the songs that Hood and co-founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Cooley were shaping for the band became more pronounced. While not a political band per se, Hood and Cooley weren’t ashamed to make their feelings known about the social rumblings that surrounded them and often separated them from musical but thematically similar groups in the South.

The “American Band” single “What It Takes” referenced the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Michael Brown in 2014 (“If you say it wasn’t racial when they shot him, well I guess that means you ain’t black”). The feelings intensified in a more impassioned commentary on the escalating mass shooting incidents on the 2020 non-album single “Thoughts and Prayers”. “They’re lined up on the playground with their hands up. See it on our news feed and we’re screaming in despair. They’re counting the casualties, everyone is picking sides. There’s always someone one to blame, never anywhere to hide.”)

Hood wrote both songs, as well as seven of the nine theme songs that make up 2020’s album “The Unraveling.” As serious as these records were, a more immediate denouement was at hand as the COVID-related lockdown shut down the gig industry.

“When we started playing shows again last fall, we had two albums of songs we couldn’t really play (referring to ‘The Unraveling’ and a quickly released follow-up titled ‘The New OK’) But we decided not to just focus on those songs, but on a show that spanned our entire 25-year history. Plus, we recorded another new album that summer that we’ll announce soon, maybe. -be even before you get to Lexington.

DriveByTruckers_TheNewOK_AlbumArt.jpg
The New Ok by Drive-By Truckers

“New songs will be different. They’ve been very inspired by the pandemic even though they don’t specifically address it. »

That’s when the number hits you. 25. It’s been two and a half decades since Hood and Cooley, who met years earlier as roommates at the University of North Alabama, convened the first Truckers line-up. Could they have imagined that their music would still be flourishing in 2022?

“Not at all, man,” Hood said. “Not at all. If I had, we probably would have thought of a better name for the band.

“It seems like Mike and I spent our 20s trying to kill each other before realizing we really had nothing to fight for. I love working on his songs. He’s got one on this album that’s about to come out that might be the best thing he’s ever written. But I also like to hear what he brings to my songs.

Perhaps the most unwavering aspect of the Truckers’ music and career is their position as a Southern rock band that doesn’t always adhere to the themes and mindsets expected of Southern rock, especially when it comes to the world around them.

“For a lot of people, the term southern rock has a sort of right-wing connotation. I’m proud of our heritage, but it’s just not our raison d’être. I mean, I listened to those early (Lynyrd) Skynyrd albums. And the Allman brothers? It was practically jazz. They were great.

“When we started out, we were just touring our first three records while working on a project called ‘Southern Rock Opera’ (a 2001 double album about a fictional Skynyrd-type band that solidified a triple guitar sound and a knack for tackling troubled, rural-minded plots. We didn’t even think it would become a Truckers album, but rather something separate from the band. Of course, we released it as than Truckers and that changed everything for us.

Yet the literal definition of Southern rock is a matter of pride for Hood. His father, bassist David Hood, is one of the last surviving members of a recording studio rhythm section commonly referred to as The Swampers. Its members have played on countless records and have become a mainstay of the rock and soul sounds that continue to thrive in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

“I don’t mind being called a Southern rock band. I mean, if you call REM a southern rock band and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers a southern rock band, then that’s fine with me.

Driving Truckers, Lydia Loveless

When: April 18, 8 p.m.

Or Outdoor show at The Burl, 375 Thompson Rd.

Tickets: $30 at theburlky.com/events.

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