Playing Catch Up
Truckers, hawks, and more
By Jim Caligiuri,
12:32PM, Wed. Jul. 22, 2009
Before we slip into August, I wanted to point out three multidisc sets that came out this month. I’ve got hazy memories of the Drive-by Truckers/Slobberbone shows that happened ten or so years ago at the Hole in the Wall. One thing’s for sure: the Truckers never sounded as good as they do on Live From Austin TX (New West).
The recording of their first appearance on Austin City Limits, shot during last year’s ACL Festival, comes as a CD/DVD release. Due to time constraints, the CD omits some of the stage banter while including all the music, but the DVD is the real attraction anyway. No matter how many times I’ve seen them – and honestly I can’t figure out how many it’s been – Patterson Hood’s tale of his mother falling in love with a truck driver told before “18 Wheels of Love” always raises the hair on my neck and this one’s no different.
The new twist to the story’s end only heightens the effect. Most of the Athens, Ga., band’s set list is taken from last year’s opus, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, but still manages to include tasty oldies like “The Living Bubba” and the roof-raising finale “Let There Be Rock.” DBT’s previous DVD, 2005’s Live At the 40 Watt, was a good representation of where they were at that moment in time, but Live From Austin TX is superior in every way. If you’re not already a fan, and you love brainy, brawny rock, it’ll make you one.
Next, time for a little alt.country nostalgia with the Jayhawks. Through most of the 1990s, the Minneapolis-based country rockers were nearly as influential as Uncle Tupelo, if not more successful. Co-founder Mark Olson left in the middle of the decade and while singer-songwriter-guitarist Gary Louris and friends soldiered on, their earlier work continues to be most people’s favorite. Recently Olson and Louris reunited, recording Ready for the Flood (New West), and bringing back old band members for a couple of tour dates. They’ve just released a stellar best of, Music From the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology (American). It’s being offered as either a single-disc career overview, which is a great place for newbies to start, or a deluxe package that contains an additional CD of rarities as well as a DVD of videos and electronic press kits. While the alt.country ghetto stunted some bands, the Jayhawks brand of harmony laden roots, pop, and rock remains as invigorating as ever.
The landscape's littered with singer-songwriter poseurs, but Iowa’s Greg Brown rises to the top, simply because he’s able to capture moments with a backwoods poet’s eye and quirky melodies. The two-disc Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol.2, 1997-2006 (Red House) picks up where 2003’s best of, If I Had Known, left off, covering material from Brown’s 1997 Grammy-nominated Slant 6 Mind to the most recent releases on his own Trailer Records. The first disc contains songs from his studio releases, like the bittersweet “Rexroth’s Daughter” and darkly tinted “Lull It By.” The second, a bit skimpy at less than 30 minutes, features four previously unavailable tracks, including the rambling, live intrigue of “Christmas Song.” Despite the title, it’s not as essential as If I Had Known, but any exposure to Brown’s songwriting genius is deserving of your time.