Saturday, April 7, 2007

Jason Isbell No Longer a Drive By Trucker

One of the albums that changed the way I listen to music was the Drive By Truckers Southern Rock Opera. Sure, I'd been a fan of popular music for years before that, but it was around that time that I started looking more towards up and coming bands instead of the already popular artists of the past and present. I bought this double CD set in 2002 from the now defunct Tower Records after reading some very positive press about it in various places. What I gleaned most from all of these reviews was the consistent mentions of Southern Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I hadn't heard any new bands compared to Skynyrd, one of my favorite acts of all time because of their lyrical honesty and killer guitars, so I was instantly interested in listening to this Rock Opera. I immediately fell in love with the CD, due to Patterson's distinctive southern-accented storytelling and the band's Skynyrd-esque three-guitar attack. This band was perfect for me. Songs like Ronnie and Neil, Road Cases, and Let There Be Rock are still some of my favorites of all time. After playing that CD incessantly for a while, I had the good fortune of seeing them live at the second Bonnaroo festival inside of one of the tents during a daytime slot. With DBT being one of the bands I came to the festival to see, I made my way over to the stage in plenty of time before they started to get right up on the rail. When the Truckers began their set, probably less than 20% of the tent was full, with plenty of room to spare even within feet of the stage. Over the course of the band's set, the tent gradually filled up to the point where it was not just full, but over packed, with people spilling out into the Tennessee sun. So it was not on hype or advanced buzz that the Truckers filled up their tent at Bonnaroo that year, it was the music that these guys created together that drew people towards them. With infinite distractions at Bonnaroo, they were still able to accomplish this. By the close of the show, with the band playing the anthemic "Let There Be Rock" the tent was packed with former curious onlookers and now current converted fans. Looking back on that rapturous crowd from the front rail while guitarists Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Jason Isbell played their matching leads with broad smiles on their faces is a concert moment that I will never forget. I've gone on to see them a few more times in a live setting, most notably their marathon "Andy Griffith" Halloween show at the Bowery Ballroom in 2003 (a show I had the pleasure of discussing with Patterson Hood at one of his solo shows this year). And they have never disappointed me.

I decided to write the above words after reading the news this morning that Jason Isbell is no longer a member of the Drive By Truckers. He has been a part of this band since 2001 and has joined them on their ride from obscurity to critic favorites. He is a big reason for their recent success. His writing credits include what has become my favorite DBT lyrics in "Outfit". Whereas the Truckers will be a different band without him, even with all he has provided to them, I am certain that they will be able to carry on without missing a beat. And Jason will be better off in the long run. He was the third guitar in that three guitar attack and he is much too talented in playing and writing to be the third wheel. He deserves this opportunity to advance his solo career, where he can get the attention and respect his talents warrant.

Just yesterday, Patterson posted this letter on the DBT website to explain his version of the news. Jason's MySpace page paints a bit of a different picture with his blog comments.

No comments: