On February 12, 2014, the Drive-By Truckers planned to film a live show at the famous 40 Watt Club in Athens, GA. The show would be used to promote the group’s new album, English Oceans. The next day was the beginning of the annual HeAthens Homecoming for the band and their fans. It seemed like a perfect plan. But then Mother Nature decided to play havoc with everything in Georgia and most of the Southeast.
But everything was in place for the recording and the band was there. Some fans were already in Athens and staying close enough to make their way through the treacherous ice and snow and get to the club. So the show went on. The result is the DVD included in this special edition two-CD/DVD set, English Oceans Deluxe/Black Ice Verite. The set also includes the original English Oceans CD and a bonus live CD with eight songs, including three acoustic songs from a private Hayhale Session Recording done in Manchester, TN on the same day that the band performed at Bonnaroo, one track from the Black Ice Verite’ show (“Shit Shots Count”), and four songs from the HeAthens Homecoming.
The original English Oceans includes some of the Drive-By Truckers’ best songs in a long career. No group turns the rougher parts of Southern culture into art better than these guys. Whether it’s the out-and-out blasting of “Shit Shots Count,” the savage storytelling of “The Part of Him” (which captures Southern politicians perfectly), or the touching “Grand Canyon” (a tribute to a fallen friend), there is something here for everyone.
Jay Gonzalez has stepped into a new role on this album, still handling keyboards but also becoming a guitar man as well. He proves himself mightily on songs like “Primer Coat.” “While He’s Gone” captures a dysfunctional relationship with grit and a pure Southern growl. The whole CD evokes pick-up trucks, trailer parks, and the hidden poetic soul of the down and out would-be rockers and party girls that populate this musical landscape.
As for the DVD, the band played as well as if there had been a full house in the club and the audio and film quality of the DVD are excellent. It is a fascinating and powerful documentary of the band playing every song of the CD, 13 in all. They play and sing flawlessly. The small audience makes enthusiastic noise and the 40 Watt is a perfect venue for this band and this music. The only small quibble is that there are no shots of the audience and no spoken introductions or interplay between the band and the intrepid fans who made it through that awful storm to see them. While there may not have been many, it would have been meaningful to see them. And while it is a matter of taste if you prefer live concert films with just the songs or with the whole concert experience, this reviewer prefers the latter as a more intimate concert experience. Nevertheless, this is a superb concert DVD.
As if that is not enough, the live CD alone is worth the price of the package. The three acoustic songs let the musicianship and especially the vocals shine through. The live recordings smoke, from the “special Valentine’s” version of “Feb.14” (the quote is from the liner notes) to the crazy fun of “Dad Drunk and Naked” and “Panties in Your Purse,” plus “Shit Shots Count” from the same show as the DVD covers (because you can’t play a DVD in the car.)
Altogether, this is a fantastic package to own, even if you already have the original English Oceans. Give that copy to a friend and enjoy this one, plus the DVD and live CD. Any Drive-By Truckers fan will love this. If you aren’t familiar with the group yet, this is a great introduction!
Promotional Photo: David McClister[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00NCLH0FC]