Drive-By Truckers: Plan 9 Records July 13, 2006 (New West) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Plan 9 Records July 13, 2006

New West

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In the midst of another long haul tour promoting their A Blessing and a Curse album, Drive-By Truckers found a moment to stop off for a set at Richmond’s Plan 9 Records. The over two-hour set served to celebrate the store’s 25th anniversary but was also a memorial fundraiser for Bryan Harvey (leader of ’80s Richmond duo House of Freaks) and his family. All of whom had been murdered earlier in the year—Drive-By Truckers leader Patterson Hood would later eulogize the Harveys on “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife.” What makes the Plan 9 live set most notable though is that it’s the band’s first live album release to cover the Jason Isbell era. In full disclosure, there is a Live At the 40 Watt DVD that chronologically precedes this set by a few years and includes Isbell.

Not only does Plan 9 have Isbell on board, but it coincides with pedal steel player John Neff’s tenure with the band. Neff’s presence is readily apparent from the start on “Tales Facing Up,” and gives large swaths of the album an undeniable Exile on Main Street feel. In fact, The Stones’ non-Exile track “Midnight Mile” is the sole cover here. In spite of Hood’s dominant songwriting and the opportunity to catch live versions of Isbell’s most potent Drive-By Truckers songs, Mike Cooley comes across in finest fettle here. Though he comes a little hot out of the box on “Marry Me,” Cooley’s loose-limbed barroom rave-up makes for the album’s fieriest moment. Maybe it’s the store’s hotbox setting, but Cooley’s straight forward songs have the band fully locked in with Neff’s pedal steel punctuating scorchers like “Shut Up and Get on the Plane.”

Perhaps Cooley’s songs shine brightly here because playing a two-hour set in a record store is no time to explore nuance. Accordingly, Hood’s best moments here are also his most direct. Arguably the best song ever written about a truck milage log auditor, “18 Wheels of Love” has the crowd hooting and hollering along with Hood’s protracted tale. Southern Rock Opera chestnuts “Ronnie and Neil” and “Let There Be Rock” replicate Crazy Horse’s shambolic skronk with the former’s off-key harmonies providing a charming moment. Isbell’s lead moments may not be as bashed out (the solo on “Decoration Day” is a notable exception), but his songwriting chops are unparalleled and point to his storied solo career. “Decoration Day,” “Outfit,” and “Goddamn Lonely Love” are some of Drive-By Truckers’ finest songs and there is good reason they continue to be Isbell live set staples. Hood’s brooding “Lookout Mountain” makes for a suitable capper to send their fans out into a southern summer night.

The performance and the setlist benefit from the band’s earlier incarnation and showcase a time in America when each day was not by definition more contentious than the day before. When the band’s focus was on telling tales—fact or fiction, but all of an undeniable southern truth. Suitably the album is being released for this Record Store Day in a limited run with a blue shoddy bootleg cover. Undoubtedly Plan 9 will have a few copies on hand. If you’re a fan of the band and particularly this iteration, this makes for a fine document of their rowdier days. Given the group’s multitude of live albums that missed this heralded line-up, it’s surprising that this has been socked away so long. Especially given the quality of the sound that puts you right in the room. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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