"The song doesn’t offer any answers; I have none."
November 17, 2017 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Into the Perilous Night: An Essay by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers: I wrote a nearly complete first draft of “What It Means” in one afternoon in my kitchen in Athens, Georgia. As a song, I didn’t know if it was worth a shit. But I had to get those feelings off my chest. The song at least felt honest and real.

Patterson Hood previously in The Bitter Southerner: The New(er) South.
posted by mandolin conspiracy (10 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for posting this. I love the Truckers and have tickets to see Patterson solo at a small club in Seattle next month, which is really exciting (that being said, Cooley is the one that makes me all antsy in my pantsy). Although I love all of their albums, American Band just might be their finest to date. Which is saying something, since they've put out some rockers. I've read in various places about the backlash the band has received from putting out this album, which is somewhat surprising. While this might be the most overtly political of their records, it's not exactly hard to know how the Truckers feel about things if you've been paying attention to the songs. Now I need to track down that new single!
posted by friendlyjuan at 9:22 AM on November 17, 2017

Yeah, I love that song - and the whole album, in fact. I've always admired the DBTs for their willingness to struggle with their southern heritage so honestly in public. America could do with a lot more of that attitude right now.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:43 AM on November 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Moving song - no pun intended. The story behind it is interesting, too.
posted by AppleSeed at 10:03 AM on November 17, 2017

Patterson Hood is not just a great songwriter, he is a great writer. I'd read the hell out of any book he might ever publish.
posted by COD at 10:14 AM on November 17, 2017

I hadn’t heard about the SLO show. I lived there for five years during the W presidency. That place votes blue in Congress thanks to gerrymandering but it’s conservative redneck to its core. It’s ironic that’s where I fell in love with the Truckers.
posted by not_the_water at 10:21 AM on November 17, 2017

It's really one of their best albums, it should have sold millions but the venn diagrams of southern country music fans and BLM supporters probably don't intersect as much as they should.
posted by octothorpe at 10:55 AM on November 17, 2017

Goddamnit! These fuckers made me cry. AGAIN!

I mean, sure is dusty in here.
posted by evilDoug at 11:56 AM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

At the same time, each new article or review brought with it a slew of hate mail from disgruntled, self-proclaimed “lifelong fans.” Clearly, they had not really listened to “Puttin’ People on the Moon” or any of at least 20 or so songs we had released that were as politically leftist as anything on “American Band.”

I laughed a bit at that part, because American Band felt like a pretty natural progression to me - the band's lyrics and themes have been political, and liberal, since at least SRO. (I don't think there's anything explicitly political on Ganstabilly or Pizza Deliverance.) The idea of a person who's been a fan for a decade listening to American Band in 2016 and suddenly going, "By god, I think these boys might be leftists!" is just comical.
posted by protocoach at 1:56 PM on November 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think it’s important to hold up the songs like this that manage to speak from the privileged side of the debate and get it right with care and humility. Because it’s easy to be patronizing or overly simplistic and it’s easy to go off the rails in anger or dispair and in general it’s just hard to do well. Similar to how it can be tough (some say near impossible, but I don’t know about that) for men to do really unproblematic feminist critique.

I think it’s important to crystallize the moral attitude into something understandable and relatable and (ironically for this song) that has some solidness and certainty of meaning.

On the same topic and from the same side, I’m also a big fan of Kevin Devine’s Freddie Gray Blues
posted by es_de_bah at 6:02 PM on November 17, 2017

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