Drive-By Truckers’ Go-Go Boots
consists of songs recorded during the same sessions as The Big To-Do
, the band’s excellent 2010 album. Inevitably, the expectation is that this new album would therefore be less stellar than its predecessor: After all, these are essentially the leftovers that weren’t good enough for the first disc, right? And while Go-Go Boots
isn’t up to the level of The Big To-Do
, it’s a pretty strong offering nonetheless.
Songs for the Brokenhearted
If The Big To-Do featured a more aggressively rock-oriented sound, then Go-Go Boots bounces around between styles, featuring more mid-tempo numbers, including a couple that stretch beyond seven minutes. But what remains consistent is the band’s ability to tell compelling stories about people who are often struggling, whether it be financially, emotionally or romantically. This Georgia sextet’s latest set lacks the urgency of their strongest albums, but the fact that this admittedly minor offering from them still resonates so deeply is a testament to their songwriting skill.
Stretching Things Out
Though DBT contains three members who contribute songs, the two primary writers are guitarists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. But for the second straight album, Hood has the lion’s share of material on the record. More importantly, Hood’s songs are the album’s clear highlights, particularly on the back-to-back lengthy tracks that are nearly short stories. “Used to Be a Cop” is a poignant examination of a man looking back on all the things he’s lost in his life: his job, his youth, his wife. It’s very much part of the band’s collection of songs about deadbeats and failures, but Hood’s beautifully detailed first-person account makes it one of their best ever. Up next is “The Fireplace Poker,” which could almost be a companion piece to The Big To-Do’s “The Wig He Made Her Wear,” both songs horrifying accounts of domestic violence that are all the more frightening because of how unsentimental they are. Clocking in together at a little over 15 minutes, these two songs are unforgettable, their length crucial for developing their sorry tales.
Looking for a Silver Lining
As is often the case with Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots has very few silver linings. Indeed, you’re more likely to stumble upon a song like “Ray’s Automatic Weapon,” about a vet who still hasn’t recovered from his experience in Vietnam, than you are to find a conventional romantic love song. But the band do find room for them too amidst the album’s 14 tracks. Perhaps tellingly, this bleak record ends with “Mercy Buckets,” in which Hood offers the listener a place of solace amidst life’s misery. Buttressed by lovely pedal steel, “Mercy Buckets” promises no happy endings, but Drive-By Truckers’ stirring musical buildup provides its own kind of comfort. Over nine studio albums and a few lineup changes, DBT continue to make very honest, empathetic music about the little things that can make life so hard. And, amazingly, they turn that it into music that’s astoundingly life-affirming.
'Go-Go Boots' – Best Tracks