As Drive-By Truckers‘ skimpy greatest hits album proves, trying to assemble a best-of collection for the band is a fool’s errand. They simply have too many good songs. Lucky for you, we’re pretty foolish over here at Consequence of Sound. So, just in time for the release of English Oceans (their tenth album), consider this your gateway drug to the rest of the Truckers’ catalog. It’s an easy and unique narcotic to get addicted to, a potent blend of southern rock tropes and nuanced, non-judgmental storytelling that’s unlike anything else on the streets. Of course, those of you who are already hooked will probably disagree with our list, so disagree away in the comments section.
10. “The Living Bubba”
Admittedly, “The Living Bubba” is a lot thinner than the Truckers’ later output. But what it lacks in musical muscle it makes up for in context, with Patterson Hood never martyrizing the song’s protagonist. That would be Gregory Dean Smalley, an Atlanta songwriter who died of AIDS in the late ’90s. Once diagnosed with his illness, Smalley played with as many bands as possible right up until his death, regardless of how small the crowd was. While Hood only knew Smalley casually (at the time, he was the sound guy for The High Hat Club in Athens), he memorialized his fellow musician’s drive and refusal to be pitied in one of the earliest Truckers songs. “I can’t die now/ ’cause I got another show to do”, he stubbornly sings from Smalley’s point of view, kicking off a career-long trend of treating his characters—both true and imagined—with unsentimental realism.
Best line: “Ain’t got no message for the youth of America/ ‘cept ‘Wear a rubber and be careful who you screw'”