Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots (2011)

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photo: Danny Clinch

by S. Victor Aaron

You might have noticed by now I’ve been following the Drive-By Truckers pretty closely lately: 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark got a fairly detailed evaluation when it first came out, and it hadn’t been for The Black Keys’ Brothers, The Big To-Do most likely would have been my favorite rock record of last year. The band has really come together in recent years as a cohesive group. The stabilized lineup of Patterson Hood (guitars), Mike Cooley (guitar), Shonna Tucker (bass), Brad Morgan (drums), John Neff (pedal steel guitar) and Jay Gonzalez (keyboards) has given everyone a voice in shaping that DBT Sound, even as Hood and Cooley remain at its core.

Next Tuesday, the encore for The Big To-Do will be released. Go-Go Boots, as its called, might be called their “Muscle Shoals” record, since it most explicitly evokes the influential music made form that northern Alabama town. Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and the Staple Singers were just of few of the huge figures in soul who cut fame-making sides in that town in the 60s. Hood’s connection to that music is direct: his father is the The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section bassist David Hood.

Go-Go Boots, recorded about the same time as The Big To-Do, is a deeper dive into other sides of the Truckers not really touched on much with the prior album: the soothing, searing country and soul combination perfected at Muscle Shoals. There’s little of the gruff, hard rock and roll found on that prior record, or any of their other records, for that matter. But take heart, it’s still the DBTs, just a little softer and maybe just a little more incisive.

One of the enduring hallmarks of the DBT style is Hood’s fascination with characters getting into trouble and going awry of the law, especially where it involves authority figures. These accounts…some of them based on true stories…still make up a good part of the presentation. “Used To Be A Cop” (video below) and “Go-Go Boots” (with some deliciously bluesy slide work by Neff) add to the catalog of his fascinating trips on the dark side of what he calls “the Southern duality.” “A**holes” revisits another recurring theme, the bitter aftermath of a broken relationship. To balance things out, Hood is hopeful and reassuring on brighter tunes like the admiration of his grandmother on “I Do Believe” and a unequivocal commitment of help on to a friend on “Mercy Buckeets,” bolstered by the passionate dual lead guitars behind him.

Cooley’s three songs are all country, where he’s most comfortable when he takes the lead vocal. His gentle, unforced baritone voice says “country” with a capital “C,” and he has a knack for spinning a story with a wit the holds your attention, as in “Cartoon Gold,” or a tale of a woman who found that leaving small town Tennessee for California made her homesick on “Pulaski.” Tucker’s songs tend to be country-soul to begin with, so her style needed no adjustment to fit the overall theme. “Dancin’ Ricky” is one of those guitar and organ-driven mid-tempo numbers that draws from both the Shoals sound and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Go-Go Boots is broadly a salute to the Northern Alabama sound of Hood and Cooley’s heritage, but there are some specific tributes to a major figure from that that the whole band admires: the late Shoal session guitarist, producer, singer and songwriter Eddie Hinton. Regarded by many, including the Truckers, as the greatest white soul singer ever, the group finally felt ready to undertake covering a couple of his songs, and these two rank among the best performances on the whole album. “Where’s Eddie,” co-written by Hinton from the point of view of a girl who wants to make amends with Hinton, gets an astounding vocal treatment from Tucker, her best yet on a DBT record. The fade out on this song comes too quickly for me, I was left wanting more of that. The uplifting anthem “Everybody Needs Love” is handled by Hood, who also pours commitment into his lead vocal, and the backing instrumentation stays grounded and soulful, rallying around Morgan’s resolute beat.

Coming on the heels of such a tremendous record like The Big To-Do, the Drive-By Truckers sidesteps a straight comparison by placing the focus on different areas, something they had intended to do all along. In doing so, they reveal more facets of their art, or least how deep those facets go. Last year we learned how well they can rock it with searing lyrics and memorable melodies. Now, they give us more of those kind of lyrics and melodies with toned down, nuanced performances that brings buckets of soul. Eddie Hinton would be proud to see that his legacy lives on, because it’s been caressed in very good hands.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron

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