Thirty Tigers Drive-By Truckers leader Patterson Hood was planning to write a…
- Posted on Feb 16th 2011 10:30AM by Kenneth Partridge
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Unlike its predecessor, 'The Big To-Do' -- recorded concurrently and stacked with all the session's meatiest, most memorable riffs and choruses -- 'Boots' finds the Truckers pulling off the highway, dimming the headlights and cruising slowly through dark, strange country.
It's territory they explored from the outset, and early on, it seemed the Georgia-based Southern-indie rockers were fixing to play 'Boots' in its entirety. They opened with the two leadoff tracks, Hood reminiscing about his grandmother on the sweet, soulful rocker 'I Do Believe,' then downshifting -- musically and emotionally -- into the album's title cut, a true-crime tale about a pervy preacher who pays to have his wife killed.
The latter sounds an awful lot like 'Mary Jane's Last Dance,' and inevitable flashbacks of Tom Petty romancing Kim Basinger's corpse made for an especially icky six minutes.
From there, 'Boots' goes to 'Dancin' Ricky,' an ode to an aging performer sung by bassist Shonna Tucker, but Tuesday night, the Truckers swerved off course, letting secret-weapon sideman Mike Cooley step up and sing 'Marry Me,' from 2003's 'Decoration Day.' Here, the sextet hit its Stones-Petty-Skynyrd bar-boogie sweet spot, and Cooley's telecaster chords followed one another like BBQ wings and quick swigs of Pabst. Three songs in, Tuesday had become Friday, and as glorious as it was, it wouldn't stay the weekend for long.
Several songs later, on 'The Thanksgiving Filter,' Hood re-imagined Bruce Springsteen's 'Atlantic City' as a tragicomic family drama. As he told the capacity Bowery crowd, he wrote the 'Boots' tune after one particularly fraught Turkey Day visit with the extended family.
"I came home, and I was trying not to be depressed, basically," Hood said. The subsequent five minutes -- all about drinking, arguing over politics and, of course, more drinking -- suggested he didn't quite succeed.
"You look sober," Hood remarked to the crowd later in the evening. "You alright?"
The night wasn't all somber mid-tempo meditation -- the Truckers stormed plenty of barns, Cooley tending to lead the charge -- but more often than not, those 'Boots' tunes kicked up bad feelings. On the twangy, shuffling 'Pulaski,' Cooley sang a fallen-angel showbiz parable akin to 'Long Black Limousine,' made famous by Elvis Presley, while 'Used to Be a Cop,' the slinky seven-minute dance number that began the encore, centered on a man Hood called "the creepiest mother---er I've ever met."
If the trigger-happy former policeman in that song is the creepiest, Ronald Reagan might be a close second. Hood took aim at the 40th president in 'Puttin' People on the Moon,' from 2004's 'The Dirty South,' and during one of the night's longer monologues, he blamed the "Great Communicator" for cutting the mental-health programs that might have saved Eddie Hinton, a cult-favorite country-soul artist Hood knew growing up.
"Thank you, Ronald Reagan," Hood said. "Happy birthday, mother----er!"
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