The Dirty South

The Drive By Truckers at the Orange Peel on Friday the 13th, might have been the best unplanned send-off for Lindsay and me. Not only did we go with a fun group of friends, but the Truckers absolutely blew the roof off. They started out slow, but before you knew it frontman Patterson Hood was sweating profusely and spitting on the stage between lyrics. The guy turns into an absolute animal as the show goes on, and I love him for it. He is the kind of rock and roller most guys wanted to be as kids, but just weren’t brave enough or crazy enough. He is fun to watch, because he convinces you that he loves performing more than you enjoy watching.

But what I really love about the Truckers is that they are pure Southern rock and roll. They aren’t Southern apologists, but Southern historians. And like good historians, their songs cover the good, the bad and the ugly. They sing about the South’s racists past, poverty, religion and drugs, but they also touch on more amusing and lighter aspects of Southern culture.

For example, in “18 Wheels of Love”(the good) Hood sings about his “Mama” who “ran off with a trucker” and “got married in Dollywood.” In “Sink Hole”(the bad) they sing the plight of the farmer losing his farm to the bank. This farm has seen “five generations and an unlocked door and a loaded burgular alarm.” (Hood apparently based this song on a great short film called “The Accountant”) And finally in “Wallace” (the ugly) Hood imagines that former Alabama governor George Wallace, who physically blocked African American students from entering the University of Alabama, was turned away at the pearly gates of heaven by a black man.

Their lyrics are thoughtful and their music loud. Subsequently, Lindsay and I, along with a packed Orange Peel, danced the night away. Meanwhile our buddy Kent, along with other jacked-up concert goers, ripped the sleeves off his shirt. I doubt that kind of stuff happens in Korea, at least not off the US military bases.
All night we were celebrating or commiserating in our Southern roots depending on the song. That is the beauty of the South, we can do both.
Because we are home to all kinds of people we have developed a culture of which I am mostly proud. Though the South’s history has its faults and eyesores, we continue to grow better for it. But then again, our region voted Bush back in for a second term. Such is the conundrum that is the South, and something the Truckers capture perfectly. Regardless, one thing is for sure:

We sure are going to miss it here in the Dirty South.