Drive By Truckers show their Muscle Shoals soul on Go-Go Boots

I think most people would be hard pressed to find a harder working band than Drive By Truckers. The new year is in full effect, so it’s only natural that there’s a new album on the way right? Well, that moment is upon us with the release of the band’s ninth album, Go-Go-Boots.

Over the course of the last decade, Drive By Truckers have mined the soul of the south. Each album is a journey through tough times, nostalgic moments, and reminiscences of good times past. On a Drive By Trucker’s album, the south is a land of blue collar success and the ultimate disappointment that often follows. People make a living, start a family and then loose it all. You can get by in their world, but ultimately, everybody’s looking for a way out. Thematically, Go-Go Boots holds true to Drive By Truckers’ past; musically, this new album takes a slightly different turn than their previous work.

The roots of Go-Go Boots’ sound goes as deep as vocalist Patterson Hood’s father, David Hood. The elder Hood was a founder of the renowned Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, also known to many as The Swampers. You’ve heard “When A Man Loves A Woman” (the Percy Sledge version, not the Michael Bolton business) right? The Swampers played on that track. How about The Rolling Stones hit “Brown Sugar?” That track was recorded at the Swampers studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The studio would craft one of the most famous soul sounds of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s with albums from Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, The Staples Singers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many others. What became known as the Muscle Shoals Sound was the sound of southern soul. In the case of Drive By Truckers, their new album is more akin to southern country-soul.

By the time you reach the album’s title track you know that Drive By Truckers are onto something a bit different. “Go-Go Boots” is definitely a blues number that ventures into murder ballad territory. The following track, “Dancing Ricky” features bassist Shonna Tucker on vocals. While Tucker, who also wrote “Dancing Ricky,” may not be as experienced a song writer as Hood or guitarist/vocalist Mike Cooley, she certainly delivers on this track. Even if the song isn’t lyrically as strong as others on this set, her vocals really propel this song into the spotlight. Hood and Cooley’s story telling continues to shine on Go-Go Boots. There are plenty of dark tales of a hard-luck world that often steps on the little guy. Oddly enough, this album, more so than their others, seems to be laced with a bit of optimism. Maybe the hard times might not be so soul-crushing after all. “Used To Be A Cop” and “Mercy Buckets” are also stand-outs.

Go-Go Boots is another solid installment in the Drive By Truckers catalog. This is a mellower country-soul affair fueled by the Muscle Shoals heritage running through the band. This collection is a bit less guitar-driven than past efforts, but it has just enough R&B hustle to keep it interesting. Like the rest of their work, Go-Go Boots is an album that you can and will return to many times. A Drive By Truckers album is a like a good short story. You can reread it and revisit the characters and never get bored, as long as the story is well written. I assure you, this band writes a good story, so hit the road and dig in.

Go-Go Boots is out now. Buy it from Drive By Truckers.

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