It's no secret that the Drive-By Truckers' favorite subject is the South. It's been the focal point of the Alabama quintet's last three albums. In 2001, they released Southern Rock Opera, a two-disc concept record that bridged the lives of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, and George Wallace. Decoration Day followed in 2003, and it took a long, hard look at death, divorce, and Dixie. Last year's The Dirty South reflected on Southern folks, both heroic and not-so-heroic (ranging from the steel-driving John Henry to Sun Records founder Sam Phillips and redneck sheriff Buford Pusser).
"At first, it was a nice break from writing about my personal shit," says Patterson Hood, one of the three guitar-slingin' singer-songwriters who front the group. "It was a nightmare time making Southern Rock Opera, but the writing of that record was one of the most pleasurable artistic experiences of my life. It was a blast, writing that record."
Which is one of the reasons the band returns to the Southern theme again and again. Hood says there's a mysticism to the region that makes it such a strong subject for exploration. He's often torn between loving and hating the South he grew up in. "It's something I can connect to and feel passionate about," he explains. "But it's a little bit removed from my day-to-day life."
Ostensibly, the ever-touring Truckers' latest jaunt (which brings them to the House of Blues on Friday) is in support of the recent reissues of their first two albums, 1998's Gangstabilly and the following year's Pizza Deliverance. But Hood rarely stays on the topic at hand. While wrapping up a half-hour phone conversation, he announces, "I had a whole bunch of things [my publicist] wanted me to talk about. I don't think we talked about any of them."
That includes the aforementioned reissues and a DVD, The Dirty South -- Live at the 40 Watt, which came out this week. Hood did, however, discuss fatherhood (he recently became a first-time dad); the various solo projects in the works that he and the other two singing, songwriting, and guitar-playing Truckers, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbel, are pursuing; and, of course, the South.
And while "the duality of the South," as Hood calls it, remains a topic worthy of discussion and dissection, he admits that it might be time to move on. "The story will definitely not be continued on the next record," he says. "But who's to say it won't get continued after that? We all just want to do something as different as we can do from the last few. We get restless.
"We want to do away with all the individual writing credits and build it from scratch ourselves, as a group, together. We've never done that before. Jason and Cooley are polar opposites, and I'm somewhere in the middle. It's gonna be a great experiment. It's gonna be either great, or we're gonna kill each other."
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