Artist: Drive-By Truckers Album: The Unraveling Year: 2020 Grade: B
In Brief: It’s surprisingly short for a Drive-By Truckers album, but it’s also much more focused than I’m used to from these guys. The politically charged lyrics and caustic criticism of the status quo graft incredibly well onto the band’s gritty alt-country style and their slice-of-life songwriting approach. This is the first time in a long time that a Drive-By Truckers album hasn’t either bored me or thoroughly grossed me out – when I do feel disgust, it’s because I know they want me to.
A combination of new releases that dropped in February, and entries from some of my colleagues’ 2019 best-of lists that I wanted to check out, has expanded my new music column to a whopping sixteen albums this month. Whew! It might be a few months out before I actually get around to fully reviewing any of this stuff, but for now…
Here are my first impressions of the latest from (deep breath…) Tall Tall Trees, Drive-By Truckers, Bruce Hornsby, black midi, Cage the Elephant, Caroline Polachek, Weyes Blood, The Lone Bellow, Green Day, Holden Days, Tennis, Tame Impala, Tyson Motsenbocker, John Reuben, Derek Webb, and The Secret Sisters.
I’m just now realizing how richly nostalgic a lot of the summer imagery is within this set of songs I put together ten years ago. In August of 2008, Christine and I embarked on a truly epic road trip through the Southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. With the exception of our previous trip to Las Vegas, Christine had never been to any of these states before, and I hadn’t been to that part of the country in quite a while myself. On this trip we took in the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Valles Caldera region of northern New Mexico, Santa Fe, some superlative sections of the Colorado Rockies, Salt Lake City, three Utah National Parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion), and finally Vegas on our way back to L.A. It took 12 days, and it tested my limits as a driver in ways that taught me to think more carefully about how many hours on the road I’d be committing myself to on future trips. But it was a great bonding experience that taught us we could enjoy nothing but each other’s company for long stretches of time out on the open road, and to this day it’s one of my most fondly remembered trips.
In with the New:
My Morning Jacket
As always, it’s interesting to look back on these homemade compilations many years later and see if any themes emerge. The spring of 2008 was a pretty happy time in my life, so these songs aren’t tied to personal experiences per se. But I can tell that I was mulling over some heavier themes. Like what God would have to say about American Christianity’s relationship to the rest of the world. Or how I would know as a parent when to protect a child from experiencing emotional pain and when to let them go ahead and learn the lesson on their own. Or whether love was more of a feeling or a conscious choice. Or the joy of a two-minute punk song. (That last one’s not a particularly heavy theme. It was just a fun observation.)
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
Olivia the Band
Andrea Corr (as a solo artist – appears later with The Corrs)