Album Reviews

Drive-By Truckers

It's Great To Be Alive!

Artist:     Drive-By Truckers

Album:     It's Great to be Alive!

Label:     ATO

Release Date:     10/30/2015


This, a three disc set of live recordings over one weekend at the Fillmore West, is the penultimate Drive-by Truckers package, a career spanning collection of many of the best songs by one of America’s best live bands. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the DBTs live twice in this past year, and can attest to the energy and band interplay which comes through brilliantly here, thanks to long-time producer/engineer David Barbe delivering a crisp recording– no easy feat when dealing with the power crunch of wailing guitars and supporting keyboards from Jay Gonzales, who often plugs in his guitar too. Gonzales adds the colors and textures that often provide different arrangements of well-worn tunes such as “Goode’s Field Road” and “Putting People on the Moon.” The DBTs also embellish by adding horns to about half of these tracks. Co-leaders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have been playing together since 1987, and include a couple of tunes from their first band, the Muscle Shoals based Adam House Cat.   The alternation of Hood and Cooley songs, a staple of their live shows, is consistent throughout.

We can usually count on Patterson Hood to compose interesting liner notes, and he doesn’t disappoint. Here’s an excerpt: “As a band, we have always considered ourselves first and foremost a songwriter’s band, and always said that ‘song is king’ should be the basis for all artistic decisions. That said, we also build our reputation as a ‘Live’ band, and as proud as I’ve always been of our records, we’ve also always been aware that there’s an element of our stage show that the records just cannot capture or parlay.” Because they never use a set list, there’s a spontaneity and light-hearted profanity in the shows that these discs capture pretty well. For example, Hood’s enthusiasm in “World of Hurt” is expressed simply: “It’s fucking great to be alive.”

A shorter, two LP version will also be offered, but the devoted DBT fans will savor this three CD box set.  This band has been together for over 20 years, and this incarnation shows no signs of slowing down. Their most recent studio album, English Oceans, was easily one of DBT’s top three albums, and has six of the 35 tracks on the three discs. If you can catch them live, by all means do so. In the meantime, this replicates that sonic experience.

– Jim Hynes

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