“If Jesus Walked On Water Then Where’d He Get Them Shoes?”

The Drive-by Truckers

* * *

Here’s a question that’s been nagging at me:  Why don’t I love the Drive-by Truckers?  I mean, really love the shit out of them?

Theoretically, the music can’t help but win: scrappy country-and-western played by recovering alternative rockers whose reprobate rough edges must scare Red Staters even as their left-of-center leanings ought to placate Blue Staters leery of pedal steel guitars.

As background accompaniment to, say, washing the dishes, I enjoy the Sonic Youth meets Lynryd Skynyrd dynamic. When I listen closely, I’m taken aback by the stray song–“Check Out Time In Vegas” from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark and the plaintive “A World of Hurt” from A Blessing And A Curse are keepers–as well as the flatly stated ironies that are the reason sensible poets look to country music for inspiration. (See post title above.) Then there’s bassist Shonna Tucker: When she takes the mike, my heart melts.

Most the time, though, admiration doesn’t translate into passion. Head Trucker Patterson Hood’s drawl may come naturally, but he tweaks it too adamantly to stop me from thinking that it may be an affectation. The same applies to the lyrics, which struggle, not mightily but with a certain self-regard, for anti-mainstream street cred. (Fidelity and its many conundrums figure in to the Truckers’ canon, but so do not-so-typical Nashville subjects like crystal meth, the parlous fate of the president’s penis and wanting to shoot the woman at the laundromat for losing your socks.)

Maybe my conception of the music is too narrow to accommodate such genre-bending. But for alt-country, I’ll take The Waco Brothers, who flaunt a cheeky self-awareness even as they achieve a tenuous authenticity. Wonder how they do it–but not so much that I stop listening to the music.

© 2011 Mario Naves

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