Drive-By Truckers

Go-Go Boots, and The Secret to a Happy Ending (ATO)

Phases & Stages

Drive-By Truckers

Go-Go Boots (ATO)

Drive-By Truckers

The Secret to a Happy Ending (ATO)

Like every other disc they've made in the past decade, Go-Go Boots takes a few spins before you finally get it. It's a grower if only because it's quieter than the Athens, Ga., boys and girl have been lately, but also because of the sweep of styles they tackle. They've gone country and soul (and country-soul) in the past, yet "Everybody Needs Love," a kindhearted shout-out written by Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section R&B icon Eddie Hinton, is unlike anything the Truckers have attempted. New DVD documentary The Secret to a Happy Ending glimpses that past, offering some insight into the period late last decade when Jason Isbell left the band. For nearly two hours, the band comes alive behind the scenes while giving a clear-eyed view on what makes mainstays Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley inseparable, and in some ways, how they ended up at Go-Go Boots, although the film isn't a spin-off of the album. Contextualization or no, Go-Go Boots remains a living tale of the South. Like the reverend who has someone kill his wife with "The Fireplace Poker" or the relatives who populate "The Thanksgiving Filter," we recognize this as a place we've all been. Set ending "Mercy Buckets" offers a bit of guitar-duel redemption that isn't necessarily warranted but welcome, and bassist Shonna Tucker contributes one song and vocals on one other Hinton tune for another gratifying change of face. Go-Go Boots shows a great band willing to try out new ideas and ultimately succeeding on its own terms, while The Secret to a Happy Ending illustrates how a group can nearly implode and then come together even stronger.

(Both) ***

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