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Drive-By Truckers turn it up for their "Big To-Do"

By Brian Baker, March 2010

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The other critical event in the creation of "The Big To-Do" was the Truckers' involvement as backing band for Booker T. Jones on last year's acclaimed "Potato Hole" album. The turning point came about three days into the initially unproductive sessions - and they only had four days to work - when Jones gathered the band in the middle of the studio to tell them a story.

"The breakthrough was that Booker figured out something about our working process that in turn taught us about our working process," says Hood. "Booker's music is all instrumental, and our songs are very lyric driven. You could say that we've been guilty at times, particularly with my songs, of being a little lazy at the music end because lyrics have always been my strongest suit. We were having a hard time connecting, and Booker figured that we play the way do because of the lyric content. So, there was a song called Reunion Time, and we'd been dicking away on it and not getting anywhere, and he stopped us and had us gather around close to him, and he set a scene for us. He said, 'I want you to close your eyes and picture something. It's Thanksgiving or a family reunion, and you haven't seen your family in a long time, and you miss them. And you're at your favorite aunt's house, and there's food everywhere, and it smells like great home cooking.' He just set this scene for us, down to the way it looked and smelled and your cousin's crazy clothes she's wearing. And then he said, 'Now, play that.' And for the rest of the record, that's what he would do. Even though his songs are instrumental, they all do actually have stories."

Armed with this new perspective on their way of working, and with collaborative assistance from producer David Barbe, the Truckers breezed through the sessions for "The Big To-Do" in 25 days across 3 months and finished with the tough-edged rock album they've always wanted to make.

True to form, the Truckers are already close to completing their next album, which is comprised of a good deal of material that wouldn't fit in the stylistic context of "The Big To-Do." And Hood is every bit as excited about the next Drive-By Truckers album as he is about the new one.

"It's the polar opposite, it doesn't come roaring out of the gate," says Hood of the next DBT album. "It's a very swampy, kind of weird record. After we do this stuff for a year, it should be fun to put that out and incorporate it into the show. But we're really happy with what we've got right now, that's for sure."

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