The Drive-By Truckers have carved a career out of creating, what is on first listen, very generic country rock. But once given time by a listener this generic country rock can seep into your heart and become the music that a person will carry with them for their whole life. They are a band that fans will sing about from the highest mountains, but to the rest of the music buying public sound as dull as dishwater. There is no doubt that the Truckers have an amazing ear for a tune that can wrench at the heart, because nobody flukes upon rock ‘n’ roll gold as much as they have, but it’s a delicate tightrope that they walk, and they rarely stray from what they are good at.
So it’s fair to say that The Fine Print, a collection of oddities and rarities from 2003 to 2008, is a dangerous proposition for the Truckers. Assuming that this basically translates as a bunch of songs that were not good enough to it make onto any of their albums, how bad does a bad Trucker song sound like? Let alone a whole albums worth of them.
They open the album on steady ground with ‘George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues’ and ‘Rebels’, which have that special something that is still keeping them relevant in this fast paced musical age. ‘Rebels’ in particular sounds huge and it only takes a few listens before you find yourself singing along to every word (or at least wailing the backing vocals).
Unfortunately this isn’t a level which is maintained and some songs do begin to drag and you can find your mind begin to wander. ‘TVA’ is a fine example of a listener’s patience being pushed to the limits, starting out as a slow acoustic number and over the course of its seven minutes adding some plodding drums and occasional power chord, it drags the album down into a mid-way lull.
But it’s unlikely there’s a reviewer in the land that would have the nerve to say that the Truckers have written a bad album (even if it is an odds and sods collection), because there will be many people out there who will love the The Fine Print. Make no mistake it ticks all the Drive-By Truckers boxes, but this is one for the hardcore fan only.
Words: Adam Wilkinson