Episode Three of our judge’s discussions, and today we find them discussing Drive-By Truckers. Tomorrow, The Felice Brothers.
Alison Howe: I knew nothing about the Drive-By Truckers at all. I put it on and I enjoyed it, I learned something, which is always a good thing. But there was a moment, I don’t know which song it was, one of the first two or three, and I don’t know whether it was subliminal or whether it really was in the lyrics, I’m convinced he sang “The Hold Steady” at some point. And to me The Hold Steady should be in this list rather than the Drive-By Truckers. I really liked their record, and I was surprised they weren’t here, and for the rest of this record that’s all I could think about. I enjoyed it, but it just passed me by. It’s not the sort of thing I tend to listen to, personally, unlike a lot of the other records, and I wish I had more emotive things to say about it.
Allan Jones: They’re one of my favourite groups, but I was surprised to see it getting on to the shortlist.
Mark Radcliffe: I’m with Alison, I think it’s the poor relation of this shortlist. I think it’s quite nice, just standard American alt. country; the best bits sound like Neil Young, it’s not shit, it’s fine. Some quite nice songs but there’s nothing out of the ordinary on it at all.
Danny Kelly: I’m not going to say anything that’ll drive it higher in other people’s estimation. I actually really like it, but I don’t think it’s as good as The Hold Steady’s record. That’s a belting record, while this is just another record by a very good band. It’s kind of an enforced lesson in American rock and alternative rock over the last 30 years. Where it’s good, it’s very very good, and it’s never really terrible or anything like that. What I’ve got against it is that there’s just so much of it.
Mark: They’ve got three songwriters, so they’re all trying to shoehorn their own things into it.
Allan: Just before recording it they lost their fourth songwriter, so it could have been another 20 minutes longer!
Danny: Anyone who has any interest in popular music to come out and say they hate the record is obviously a liar. There’s nothing to hate about it, it’s very good in places. They kind of passed me by, but when I heard that Patterson Hood was David Hood’s son the record immediately went up five notches for me, because of the work he did particularly with Bobby Womack in the early ‘70s. I don’t believe you should judge records by their parentage. . .
Linda Thompson: Definitely you should! –
Danny: Well, since this is clearly not gonna win we can loosen our corsets a bit, actually these things do matter. Mark mentioned that Elbow have been together man and boy, and that does bring something to the party. But since I honestly don’t think it’s not even as good as its close relative that didn’t make the list, I can’t go for this.
Allan: There’s 17 tracks on there, quite dense songwriting as well that’s not always very clear in the narrative, and I think it probably speaks to their fans more than it would to a broader audience, hence my surprise that they’d actually made the shortlist.
Danny: It’s not their best record, even.
Allan: It’s pleasing to see them getting the recognition, but I fancy it will appeal to people who’ve not heard them before and probably weren’t too familiar with that kind of music.
Danny: I enjoyed it thoroughly, but not in any way that would make me want to go out and buy the previous record, which is always a good test for me.
Allan: There are two or three earlier records that would probably represent them more forcefully and in a much more focused way as well.
Linda: Not much to add to that, really. I’m friends with Spooner Oldham, and he told me about this group and anyone he loves I usually love. But I’ve heard better bands in Nashville in bars, I really truly have. There’s good picking, but you expect that, and I liked the song “The Purgatory Line”, but for the most part I thought the record was unremarkable. It just didn’t do much for me.
Tony Wadsworth: Nobody ever said a record was too short, and I think people should learn that lesson. There’s too many bloody long records around, unfortunately, and you can’t navigate your way around a 70-minute record, it’s really quite hard. I love this type of music, but it is just a fair-to-good example of it. I do like the track “Bob”, though, it’s a nice little cameo of a song, but was sort of the only thing I could pick out of it. The rest of it was just OK alt. country.