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For Drive-By Truckers, band ethos rules

Paradise, Boston, March 13, 2013

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Drive-By Truckers may have two lead vocalists, who occupy the spotlight, sort of, but make no mistake about it. This is a group collective and a most sturdy one at that.

While Patterson Hood historically may have appeared as the nominal leader of DBT, that was not the case on this evening where he and Mike Cooley would alternate lead vocals. They have two distinct styles, which bring another dimension to the DBT sound. Cooley sings with more of a drawl and a full-bodied voice. Hood, on the other hand, offers a greater depth of emotion to his delivery, not the prettiest voice going, but he, too proved effective.

What made DBT tick was the band ethos. Cooley played a lot of sharp leads, and Hood also contributed on his guitar. But the rest of the Truckers certainly played a vital role. Chief among them was Jay Gonzalez, who doubled on keyboards and guitar. He spiced many of the songs played during the 130-minute show (including a six-song, 40-minute long encore, something few bands do these days. It's usually one or two and done) with his guitar pickings, opting for slide on occasion. He also was adept on keyboards, further fleshing out the songs, which mostly rocked, but occasionally offered a Stonesy-style roots sound.

Long-time drummer Brad Morgan with long long beard was a steady timekeeper throughout. And newbie Matt Patton (he started playing with the band last year after Shonna Tucker left) fit in quite well, smiling and enjoying himself as well he should have. He and Morgan made a fine combination.

The Truckers let the songs play themselves out - for the most part. Once they get going with a particular song (Carl Perkins' Cadillac or The Night G.G. Allin Came to Town, for example), it was a case of settling in for the ride because the songs can extend and stretch for awhile, such as the close to the regular set Hell No, I Ain't Happy. A few songs could have gone longer with no complaint.

With no new music out since "Go Go Boots" in 2011 (a greatest hits type disc, "Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians - Greatest Hits 1998-2009," came out later that year), and, therefore, nothing new to promote, it's great to see The Truckers out on the road because they want to play.

As if to underscore the point, that it's the music dummy, Hood did all the talking, although there was not a whole lot of that. The Drive-By Truckers remain one of music's treasures - not flashy, not high on ego - they just brought their considerable skills to the table as usual.

In a very complimentary mix, the trio The Whigs of Athens, Ga., opened with a sharp set. With Parker Gisbert on guitar, Julian Dorio on drums and Timothy Deaux on bass, they set a fast pace to their meaty rock songs. Credit the band (and sound man) for putting the vocals up real high, meaning you actually hear the words. Staying Alive, (ah, not the Bee Gees song) was a highlight.

The Whigs may have been the table setter for DBT, but they did their job quite fine, breathing intensity into the material.