Our top Drive-By Truckers songs list presents the music of an American band famed for blending alternative country, Southern rock, and country-rock. The band was founded by Patterson Hood and his friend Mike Cooley in 1996. Patterson Hood is the son of David Hood, formerly a bassist at Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Notably, Patterson and Mike are the only original members of Drive-By Truckers in the band’s current lineup.
The band released its debut album Gangstabilly in 1998. Gangstabilly (1998) featured prominently alternative country elements with traces of country rock. Before the band released its sophomore album, its lineup started to evolve. This resulted in a rock-oriented sophomore album Pizza Deliverance (1999).
Drive-By Truckers embarked on a nationwide tour after the release of its sophomore album. The tour resulted in the release of the band’s first live album, which was released in 2000 under Second Heaven Records. Once more, the live album saw the band shift its sound to harder rock-influenced country songs. With the band’s member Rob Malone switching to the guitars, Drive-By Truckers now prided itself with three guitarists. Other bands that have in the past had three guitarists include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Maiden, and Cult of Luna.
The band started working on a double album scheduled for release in 2001. Southern Rock Opera (2001) majorly covered diverse topics, including politics of race. The album also delivers a narrative about a fictional rock band that alludes to the history of the rock ensemble Lynyrd Skynyrd. Southern Rock Opera received critical acclaim resulting in high demand for the album. This saw the band reach new feats of fame in the US.
However, the band ran into problems while on tour for the album. One of its guitarists, Rob Malone, left the ensemble, leaving the band with two of its original guitarists. This saw the band team up with American singer-songwriter and guitarist Jason Isbell. Drive-by Truckers signed a new recording contract with New West Records. Under this label, the band released its album Decoration Day (2003). The band wished to capitalize on the success of the acclaimed Southern Rock Opera (2001).
Like Southern Rock Opera (2001), Decoration Day (2003) received positive reviews from critics. The album featured songs with an older alternative country sound. In the following year, Drive-by Truckers released a concept album under the name The Dirty South, which was followed by a lengthy tour that lasted for two years. Once again, the band released the album A Blessing and a Curse (2006). Critics noted the shift of the band’s sound to music that resembled Faces and The Rolling Stones.
After six years with Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell left the band, citing that he had been forced out. However, the band revealed that his excessive drug and alcohol abuse had made him unreliable. Spooner Oldham joined Drive-By Truckers to play the keyboard. Drive-By Truckers released the album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (2008) with its new lineup. The album rose to number thirty-seven on the Billboard 200.
Since then, the band has released six more studio albums, five of the album appearing on the Billboard 200. Drive-By Truckers has worked with other artists throughout its career, including Booker T. Jones and Bettye LaVette. Other than Patterson and Mike, other current band members include drummer Brad Morgan, guitarist and keyboardist Jay Gonzalez, and bassist Matt Patton. David Barbe has constantly produced most of the band’s albums. Here we present our best Drive-By Truckers songs of all time.
#10 – Surrender Under Protest
Opening our top 10 Drive-By Truckers songs is the powerful hit “Surrender Under Protest.” The song is featured on the band’s album American Band (2016). “Surrender Under Protest” finds the band singing about the Confederate attitude that has remained in the South despite the end of the Civil War. Drive-By Truckers revealed that the unrestrained racism in the South has held back its progress. The song is one of the band’s most political-oriented releases.
#9 – The New OK
“The New OK” is the title track to the band’s most recent album. While The New OK (2020) failed to chart on the Billboard 200, it rose to number fourteen on the Billboard Top Americana/Folk Albums. Drive-By Truckers is famously known for its immense touring. However, with the restrictions put across in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the band would barely make any tours. Patterson Hood penned the lyrics to the song after attending a Black Lives Matter protest.
#8 – Thoughts and Prayers
Coming in at number eight is the hit “Thoughts and Prayers.” “Thoughts and Prayers” is a protest song that doubles up as a Christian call to action. Through the song, Patterson takes a dig at the Second Amendment-blind leaders and the gun industry. While its lyrics are biting, the song features a folk-rock melody that is both calming and appealing. The song is featured on the band’s album The Unravelling (2020).
#7 – Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife
“Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife” is one of the best Drive-By Truckers songs from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (2008). Vocalist Patterson Hood revealed that the song alludes to the murder of his close friend and musician Bryan Harvey and his family. The murder of Bryan Harvey and his family was one of the Richmond killings in 2006.
#6 – Never Gonna Change
Number six on our top 10 Drive-By Truckers songs is the hit “Never Gonna Change.” The song is featured on the album The Dirty South (2004). “Never Gonna Change” alludes to a stubborn man who defies living in fear. Jason Isbell delivers awe-inspiring lyrics that help place “Never Gonna Change” as one of the band’s best releases.
#5 – Decoration Day
“Decoration Day” is the title track to the band’s 2003 album. The song finds Drive-By Truckers singing about a family feud between the Lawson and the Hill families. It is delivered from the perspective of a member of the Lawson family. Themes of family and personal values are prominently featured on this song. Again, the song is penned by Jason Isbell.
#4 – Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Among songs that showcase the genius instrumentation and arrangement by the band is the hit “Where the Devil Don’t Stay.” The song is featured on Drive-By Truckers’ album The Dirty South (2004). “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” is a song inspired by a poem by Ed Colley, an uncle to lead vocalist and guitarist Mike Cooley.
#3 – Gravity’s Gone
Coming in at number three is the hit “Gravity’s Gone.” The song is one of the brilliant releases from the album A Blessing and a Curse (2006). While the song has a multi-layered meaning, “Gravity’s Gone” generally alludes to a protagonist who chooses not to alter his ways. The protagonist waits to hit rock bottom but still wonders whether such a state really exists.
#2 – Carl Perkins Cadillac
“Carl Perkins Cadillac” is yet another hit from the band’s album The Dirty South (2004). The song finds the band describing the renowned quartet Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Notably, the quartet’s boss Sam Phillips assured a new Cadillac to the first artist to hit a million records in sales. Carl Perkins received his prize after his song “Blue Suede Shoes” hit the mark.
#1 – What It Means
Number one on our top 10 Drive-by Truckers songs list is the brilliant hit “What It Means.” The song is featured on the band’s album American Band (2016). In this song, Drive-By Truckers reflect on the shootings of African-Americans by the police. The hit protests the 2012 killing of Trayvon and the 2014 shooting of Michael in Ferguson.
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