Drive-By Truckers

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Victory North

2603 Whitaker Street

Savannah, GA 31401

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Drive-By Truckers with Jimbo Mathus

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Drive-By Truckers have always been outspoken, telling a distinctly American story via craft, character, and concept, all backed by sonic ambition and social conscience. Founded in 1996 by singer/songwriter/guitarists Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood, the band have long held a progressive fire in their belly but with AMERICAN BAND, they have made the most explicitly political album in their extraordinary canon. A powerful and legitimately provocative work, hard edged and finely honed, the album is the sound of a truly American Band – a Southern American band – speaking on matters that matter. DBT made the choice to direct the Way We Live Now head on, employing realism rather than subtext or symbolism to purge its makers’ own anger, discontent, and frustration with societal disintegration and the urban/rural divide that has partitioned the country for close to a half-century. Master songwriters both, Hood and Cooley wisely avoid overt polemics to explore such pressing issues as race, income inequality, the NRA, deregulation, police brutality, Islamophobia, and the plague of suicides and opioid abuse. As a result, songs like "What It Means" and the tub-thumping "Kinky Hypocrites" are intensely human music from a rock ‘n’ roll band yearning for community and collective action. Fueled by a just spirit of moral indignation and righteous rage, AMERICAN BAND is protest music fit for the stadiums, designed to raise issues and ire as the nation careens towards its most momentous election in a generation.

"I don’t want there to be any doubt as to which side of this discussion we fall on," Hood says. "I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding of where we stand. If you don’t like it, you can leave. It’s okay. We’re not trying to be everybody’s favorite band, we’re going to be who we are and do what we do and anyone who’s with us, we’d love to have them join in."

Mike Cooley is somewhat more direct. "I wanted this to be a no bones about it, in your face political album," he says. "I wanted to piss off the assholes."

AMERICAN BAND’s considerable force can in part be credited to the sheer musical strength of the current Drive-By Truckers line-up, with Hood and Cooley joined by bassist Matt Patton, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez, and drummer Brad Morgan – together, the longest-lasting iteration in the band’s two-decade history. AMERICAN BAND follows ENGLISH OCEANS and 2015’s IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE!, marking the first time DBT have made three consecutive LPs with the same hard-traveling crew.

"This is the longest period of stability in our band’s history," says Hood. "I think we finally hit the magic formula. It’s made everything more fun than it’s ever been, making records and playing shows."

Drive-By Truckers might have maintained constancy but Hood embraced change by moving his family to Portland, OR in July 2015, a physical shift which he says "opened the floodgates" to a batch of deeply felt, strikingly emotional new songs. Having recorded the bulk of their canon in Athens, GA, the band was also eager to reinvent their own surroundings. Memphis was considered but when DBT’s November 2015 tour wrapped in Nashville, the band decided to spend a few days at the legendary Sound Emporium getting a head start on the new record.

Never ones to screw around in the studio, DBT cranked out nine new songs in just three 14-hour shifts, as ever with producer/engineer David Barbe at the helm. Coming in directly from the road put a head of steam behind the band, allowing them to lay it all out live on the floor, tracking songs like "Once They Banned Imagine" in little more than a single take.

"We realized we had most of the record," Hood says, "so we went back after the holidays for four more days, but ended up finishing it in three. We tend to usually take about two weeks to make a record so this was really quick."

"That was a lot of fun," the Alabama-based Cooley says, "and a shorter drive for me."

Speed was of the essence, as DBT was determined to get their record out at the height of the 2016 election season. By their very nature, Drive-By Truckers has always been an inherently political act, "but this is the first time it’s been out there on the surface," Cooley says, "No bones about it."

"I’ve always considered our band to be political," Hood says. "I’ve studied and followed politics since I was a small kid. I got in trouble in third grade for a paper I wrote about Watergate – the teacher sent a note home to my parents saying I was voicing opinions about our president that she didn’t appreciate. That’s the one time I got in trouble at school where my parents sided with me."

"SOUTHERN ROCK OPERA was a pretty political record," Cooley says. "But we hadn’t had our first black president yet. We hadn’t sat in the bleachers and watched the backlash, which, as acquainted as we are with racism, went beyond what anyone imagined it would be."

Political matters reared their head on 2014’s ENGLISH OCEANS, most explicitly on Cooley’s "Made Up English Oceans," detailing the life and crimes of late Republican black ops master Lee Atwater. Hood further sharpened his own skills by penning an op-ed for the New York Times condemning the Confederate Flag and its vile role in Southern culture.

"That was a major learning experience," he says. "Working with an editor, how to streamline what I’m trying to say, how to find the most powerful part and get rid of some of the excess. It was really grueling but I was eager to take it on and learn as much as I could from it."

Hood delivered a finished draft to the Old Gray Lady and within moments, wrote the ferocious "Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of Dawn" on a borrowed guitar – his own gear in a moving van on its way to his family’s new home in Portland. The song, like so much of the album, is a direct response to 2014’s police shootings of unarmed African-Americans, a moment both Hood and Cooley see as the catalyst for their blunt new approach. Long haunted by the police shooting of a mentally ill neighbor in his former hometown of Athens, GA, Hood wrote "What It Means" in the heat of Ferguson, Staten Island, and the subsequent emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"It was all in my head and just kind of bubbling at the surface," Hood says. "I think we knew early on that was the direction this record was going to go in."

Hood’s friend and collaborator for more than half their lives, Cooley was a on similar trip, reading, writing, and pondering the very same issues that rend the country in two.

"We have conversations about all this stuff," he says, "but not necessarily in terms of planning an album or anything. Then we go home, he writes a song, I write a song, and they’re both basically about the same thing."

"We tend to come to the same conclusions separately but together," Hood says. "We don’t really discuss it until we have a bunch of songs. We’ve always been astounded at how much common ground our songs have, record after record. SOUTHERN ROCK OPERA is the only time we discussed a game plan for what we were going to write, the only time. It’s kind of uncanny. Truly a beautiful thing."

Further creative inspiration came from a pair of American milestone pieces of art, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ National Book Award-winning Between The World and Me and Kendrick Lamar’s TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY, "in my opinion, the greatest musical work of our current time," says Hood.

"It’s an inspiring album and one that made me question myself," he says. "I’m a white guy from the South, do I have the right to be singing about this stuff? What can I do? The only conclusion I could come up with was maybe white guys, with Southern accents, who look like rednecks, need to say Black Lives Matter too. It’s a start, a tiny start, but a step in the right direction is better than no step at all."

"I couldn’t not do it," says Cooley. "I’ve got to speak about this stuff, somehow or another. And I’m going to speak about it from a middle aged Southern white working class evangelical background male point of view."

Much like Lamar’s GRAMMY® Award-winning song cycle, AMERICAN BAND serves as a stark, tightly focused snapshot of today’s America, an exemplary illustration of rock ‘n’ roll as a vehicle for social commentary and clear-eyed reportage. "Guns of Umpqua" captures Hood’s reaction to the 2015 shooting at Roseburg, OR’s Umpqua Community College while Cooley’s breakneck "Ramon Casiano" is a topical folk rocker telling the little known tale of former National Rife Association leader Harlon Carter and the murder of 15-year-old Ramon Casiano. Known as "Mr. NRA," Carter transformed the organization from its original role as a sportsmen and conservationist group into what Cooley correctly declares "a right wing, white supremacist gun cult." A Southern-rooted band opening their album with such a song makes for a singularly powerful statement, the NRA’s monolithic control of the debate demanding opposing artists to be as overt and vocal on the issue as possible.

"The NRA needs to be turned into a political turd in a swimming pool," Cooley says, "so all these fuckers will start paddling away.

"What I’m trying to do is point straight to the white supremacist core of gun culture," Cooley concludes. "That’s what it is and that’s where its roots are. When gun culture thinks about all the threats they need to be armed against, what color are they?"

Of course the personal can also be politic, represented here by Hood’s deeply felt "Baggage." Penned the night of Robin Williams’ death, the song sees Hood examining his own demons and long bout with depression, "the worst I’ve had as an older adult," he says. "I was kind of blindsided by it. There had always been a tangible thing that I could point to as to what was wrong, but this time I was grasping for something and not quite finding it."

AMERICAN BAND is surprisingly optimistic thanks to Hood’s "absolutely" improved mental health as well as Drive-By Truckers’ passion for the issues behind the material. The band intend to hit the road harder than ever in support of AMERICAN BAND, bringing their songs to the people as they have always done, only this time with the country’s very future at stake. Fortunately for America, Drive-By Truckers are, as a Great Man once said, fired up, ready to go.

"I feel like Cooley and I both nailed what were going for on every song on this record," Hood says. "I don’t think there’s a wasted line or word on this record. There’s nothing I would change, that’s for sure. I think we got this one right."

"I’m sure there will be people saying ‘I wish they’d keep the politics out of it,’" Cooley says, "but one of the characteristics among the people and institutions we are taking to task in these songs is their self-appointed status as the exclusive authority on what American is. What is American enough and who the real Americans are. Putting AMERICAN BAND right out front is our way of reclaiming the right to define our American identity on our own terms, and show that it's out of love of country that we draw our inspiration."

An artist steeped in Southern roots music of all sorts, Jimbo Mathus first earned attention as one of the founders of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who became an unlikely success when their skewed take on vintage hot jazz, "Hell," became a modern rock hit in 1996. While the SNZ's melange of hot jazz, jump blues, and pre-war pop was distinctive enough, it only represented the tip of the iceberg of Mathus' many influences. After setting out on his own, Mathus dug deep into country blues (Play Songs for Rosetta), swamp rock (Knockdown South), blues-shot rock & roll (National Antiseptic), juke joint blues (Old Scool Hot Wings), honky tonk country (Jimmy the Kid), and moody roots rock (Stop and Let the Devil Ride), often jumping from genre to genre within a single album (Confederate Buddha). Regardless of which direction he takes on any given project, the connecting thread is always the music of his native Mississippi and his roots in the blues that connects it all.

James H. Mathis, Jr. was born in Oxford, Mississippi in 1967. He grew up in a household full of musicians, and by the time he was eight years old, he had learned to play mandolin and was sitting in on the family jam sessions. Jimbo's family favored country, folk, and blues numbers, and the music made a strong impression on him as he expanded his instrumental skills, learning guitar and piano. As a teenager, he formed a band called the End, as well as a noise punk combo named Johnny Vomit & the Dry Heaves. After high school, Mathis enrolled at Mississippi State University, where he studied philosophy and performed with local bands. Jimbo dropped out of college to join the Merchant Marines, and traveled extensively during shore leave. After spending some time in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Mathis made the town his home, and became something of an autodidact, spending many hours reading in the University of North Carolina's library.

The Inevitable Squirrel Nut Zippers Changing his last name to Mathus, Jimbo picked up a gig playing drums with a band called Metal Flake Mother, and met Katharine Whalen, an aspiring vocalist with a fondness for music and fashions of the '20s and '30s. Mathus and Whalen would marry, and in 1993, they formed a band, citing Django Reinhardt, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, and Raymond Scott as inspirations. They called the band the Squirrel Nut Zippers (after a candy once popular in the Deep South), and soon developed a following for their energetic live shows, offbeat humor, and unique sound. They struck a deal with the North Carolina-based independent label Mammoth Records, and released their first album, The Inevitable Squirrel Nut Zippers, in 1995. The album earned positive reviews and college radio airplay, and the follow-up, 1996's Hot, unexpectedly took the group into the mainstream when the song "Hell" became a Modern Rock hit. After three more albums, a number of personnel changes, and the divorce of Mathus and Whalen, the Squirrel Nut Zippers split up in 2000.

ThrillsMathus had already started working outside the band before their split. In 1997, he teamed with bassist Stu Cole, pianist Greg Bell, and producer Mike Napolitano to form Jas. Mathus & His Knock-Down Society, recording Play Songs for Rosetta, a blues-based collection recorded for a family friend whose father was legendary blues artist Charley Patton. Mathus also served as a sideman for former Zippers violinist Andrew Bird, appearing on 1998's Thrills, the debut from Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. Mathus made his proper solo debut with 2001's National Antiseptic, credited to James Mathus & His Knockdown Society, which featured Cole, Bell, and members of the North Mississippi Allstars. That same year, Mathus played guitar on the legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy sessions for Sweet Tea.

Lost at SeaStop and Let the Devil Ride was released in 2003, and two years later Knockdown South was issued under the name Jimbo Mathus. He returned to the acoustic roots of Mississippi blues and country with Old Scool Hot Wings (credited to Jas. Mathus), which came out in 2006. Also appearing in 2006, this time under the name Jimbo Mathus, was the album Jimmy the Kid, a country-oriented effort that originally appeared on Artemis Records; after Artemis went under, it was reissued by Hill Country Records in 2009, and Fat Possum in 2014. Mathus briefly put his solo work on hold as he staged a Squirrel Nut Zippers reunion tour and released an album with the band, 2009's Lost at Sea. Back on his own, he stuck with the Jimbo moniker for his 2011 full-length Confederate Buddha, which was issued by Memphis International Records. (It was reissued in 2015.) Blue Light, a six-song solo vinyl EP, arrived in 2012, followed by the full-length White Buffalo in 2013. In February of 2014, the prolific Mathus and his new backing band the Tri-State Coalition issued the electric Dark Night of the Soul. He also contributed to songwriter Ian Siegal's Picnic Sessions the same year. Desiring a completely analog sound for his next record, Mathus recorded at Water Valley, Mississippi's Dial Back Sound, the home studio of Fat Possum label boss Bruce Watson, and emerged with the loosely knit concept offering Blue Healer in the spring of 2015. In 2016, Mathus stepped out with another loose but emphatic effort for Fat Possum, Band of Storms. Next, Mathus and a new lineup of Squirrel Nut Zippers hit the road and released an album, Beats of Burgundy, in 2019. The following year, Mathus returned to action as a solo artist with 2019's moody and eclectic Incinerator.





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Victory North

2603 Whitaker Street

Savannah, GA 31401

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