Drive-By Truckers have released a timely album in American Band, their eleventh studio record. Songwriters Patterson and Cooley have created a record that addresses into politics and feels personal as well.
American Band wastes no time in addressing issues head on. Opening track “Ramon Casiano” tells the story of the killing of the 15-year-old Ramon Casiano by Harlon Carter, a man who played no small part in turning the NRA into, as Cooley aptly described in a press release, “a right wing, white supremacist gun cult.” He further added, “What I’m trying to do is point straight to the white supremacist core of gun culture…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?”
Race plays a major part throughout the album. In July of 2015, The New York Times published an article by Patterson Hood, arguing that the Confederate Flag needs to be abandoned as a emblem of southern pride.” Lead single “Surrender Under Protest” offers a similar message, summed up in a four minute rocker.
Hood’s article works as a companion piece to American Band. The record finds Drive-By Truckers dealing with their own relationship to politics and the South. In a press release, Hood offered, “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.”
Separately, Cooley added, “I’m sure there will be people saying ‘I wish they’d keep the politics out of it, 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.”
Image credit: Danny Clinch