A lot of bands would be embarrassed about recording the same album nine times. Drive-By Truckers, alt-rock’s master Southern Gothic storytellers, are proud of it. On Go-Go Boots, their third studio full-length in four years, the Truckers do pretty much the exact same thing they’ve been doing since their 1998 debut, Gangstabilly. But then again, why mess with the formula when you’ve never put out a mediocre album?
Go-Go Boots kicks off with the windows-down FM anthem “I Do Believe,” in which vocalist/guitarist Patterson Hood vividly characterizes the loss of his rock ‘n roll virginity: “I was only 5 years old/Riding in your top-down Mustang/Taking me out to the beach/Your eyes matched the skies.” It’s a quietly touching lyric, and Hood makes the most of the epic scenery, twanging out a lighter-waver of a chorus that perfectly matches his song’s sky-wide scope.
Of course, Hood’s not the only Trucker with a story to tell. Just like their earlier albums, Go-Go Boots is a messy, loosely-collected batch of individualized tales, as told by three distinctly original voices. Hood contributes the bulk of the songs this time around, but the track list is rounded off by three contributions from vocalist/guitarist Mike Cooley (including the mesmerizing dobro-fueled strummer “Cartoon Gold) and two choice cuts from bassist/vocalist Shonna Tucker, who throws in a contender for the album’s emotional high point with the dense pedal-steel pounder “Dancin’ Ricky.”
The Truckers are damn good players, no doubt about that, spicing up their folk and Southern-rock structures with pedal-steel and Wurlitzer, and their adventurous spirit has helped bridge the gap between Appalachian soul and Brooklyn suave. Ultimately, though, it’s their knack for a good story that keeps them in a class of their own.