by Chris Familton
Over nearly quarter of a century, Drive-By Truckers have slowly established themselves as one of the great American bands of modern times. Harnessing the grit and swagger of alt-country and embracing and challenging the notion of being a Southern rock band, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and crew have arguably never put a foot wrong across a dozen studio albums and The Unraveling is yet another high water mark for the band.
Their previous album American Band was their most political statement, on the eve of the Trumpian nightmare. Now, four years later they’re operating in similar territory yet it’s a more personal perspective – how to process and deal with life in ‘21st Century USA’, they even have a song named just that. Look at the rest of the songs and you get an idea of the tone of the record – ‘Heroin Again’, ‘Babies in Cages’, Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun’, ‘Thoughts and Prayers’.
The balance of the band is a real key to the success of the album. The shared songwriting, twin guitar attack and lead vocal by Hood and Cooley, the solidity, rock and roll of the rhythm section and Jay Gonzalez’s keyboard groove and swirl. It allows the lyrics to sit at the focal point of the songs – political songs that are reflective, poetic and emotive rather than merely reactionary and demonstrative. Drive-By Truckers are chronicling the unraveling world with an unflinching eye, like few of their contemporaries.