Sound: Recently friends of mine attended a Drive-By Truckers show, a performance they were fairly excited to check out ahead of time. The following day on the ol' trusty Facebook, the consensus was that the Drive-By Truckers turned out a pretty stale show. This went beyond the mere stage presence factor, as it's easy to be forgiving of a band who at least songwriting on its side. Upon listening to the Drive-By Truckers' latest release Go-Go Boots, the experience paralleled what had been said about the live show although there are a few tracks that are the saving graces. The band claims to have gone further into the Muscle Shoals aspect more than ever before and in some instances this is true but the 14 cuts (15 on vinyl) feel far too entrenched in a predictable alt country vibe that broaches monotony by the final song.
Traditional country roots certainly do revolve around the storytelling as an integral part of the songwriting, and Go-Go Boots delivers in that sense. Far too often, however, the core music is not engaging or varied enough to hold your attention. The album has its moments, like in the slide guitar-rich title track, the soul-driven Everybody Needs Love, and the sexy groove of Used To Be A Cop. When vocalist/bassist Shonna Tucker takes over singing duties the songs transform into having an Emmylou Harris feel, which is also absolutely a welcome direction.
You almost wish there were fewer tracks on Go-Go Boots, if only because that would allow the best tracks to shine a bit more. Instead there are at least five or six offerings that almost feel interchangeable. I Do Believe, Ray's Automatic Weapon, and Assholes rely primarily on the lyrics and end up being too one-note. The Drive-By Truckers include inspired layers and textures every so often, but in the end it's not enough to make a 100 percent satisfying record. // 6
Lyrics: In general the lyrical content on Go-Go Boots is entertaining, absolutely aided by the charismatic delivery of Patterson Hood and the sexy crooning of Shonna Tucker. The album is full of adventures autobiographical or imagined, and a track like Used To Be A Cop (Used to have a wife but she told me I was crazy; Said she couldn't stand the way I fidget all the time; Sometimes late at night I circle round the house; I look through the windows and I dream that she's still mine) are quirky enough to hold your attention even when the music doesn't completely deliver. // 8
Overall Impression: While alternative country is a genre worthy of being embraced and the Drive-By Truckers are certainly likable enough, Go-Go Boots doesn't go anywhere that intriguing musically. This may be a case where you really do have to listen to the album several times before getting hooked. There are a few tracks that do stand out from the pack because of the novel instrumentation and layering, but Go-Go Boots isn't consistent enough to want to revisit immediately. // 7