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Drive-By Truckers

It's Great to Be Alive – 2015 (ATO)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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It's been roughly two decades when musicians Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley decided to tie their wagon together and form Drive-By Truckers. And through the countless tours, hundreds (oops, thousands) of shows, the band decided now was the right time for a live album. Three nights at San Francisco's Fillmore is the backdrop for this massively generous 35-song compendium. Yet while there are a few expected lulls in the marathon of music offered, Hood and Cooley's dual engine of Southern barroom rock is what makes this a brilliant, breezy, beer-soaking bash.

The horde of gritty, greasy guitar rumblers opens with "Lookout Mountain" and the rock/alt.-country nugget "Where The Devil Don't Stay." Cooley and Hood often alternate lead vocals. Cooley's delivery at times brings to mind Willie Nelson, particularly on the fine "Woman Without Whiskey" and later on during the simple, but sincere ditty "First Air Of Autumn."

Meanwhile Hood is Cooley's equal, complementing perfectly with songs such as "Box Of Spiders" and the equally soulful "Mercy Buckets." When Hood pulls out the stops with the powerful "Putting People On The Moon," it's one of literally several instances where you realize how solid DBT are.

If there's one thing you weren't aware of Drive-By Truckers are known for, it's not keeping things short and sweet. If a song demands to be fleshed out, then dammit they will do it over six, seven or eight minutes. It's no surprise then that the standard live album entitled "This Weekend's The Night" has a handful of these nuggets concluding with the epic "Grand Canyon."

Another aspect coming into focus is how influential the band has been on younger groups coming up. Without going into their years with Jason Isbell who is now doing quite well for himself, other groups like Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket and Kings Of Leon have sounded as if they've rooted themselves in the Drive-By Truckers' musical tree.

Even more important is how they've managed to create a signature sound. It can sound like it's about to fall completely off the rails yet the band rein it back in with Cooley and Hood weaving their guitars around each song. This is true whether you're listening to "Marry Me," "Gravity's Gone" or the boogie-fuelled "Get Downtown."

On the whole, it might not be conducive for sitting down for one listen at roughly three-hours and nearly three dozen songs. However, there have been far shorter live collections, which are nearly painful to endure. What you have here is a band in their element and captured perfectly. As they sing in "The Righteous Path," the band is basically "doing the best we can to keep on keeping on." Judging by this epic live recording, they have plenty of keeping on left in their tank.