Drive-By Truckers, the self-proclaimed “Gangstabillies” from Northern Alabama, are the planet’s most literary country rock band. Co-founders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley weave haunting, modern tales of the Southern Gothic with an incisive penchant for the bizarre on par with the likes of Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner. Over the years, as members have come and gone (Jason Isbell, Shonna Tucker and John Neff most recently), the quality of the songwriting has ensured consistent brilliance. The fact that they rock like Skynard doesn’t hurt either.
Literary-ness and badass-ness don’t typically go hand-in-hand, which makes Drive-By Truckers so special. “Pauline Hawkins” a stand out track from their upcoming English Oceans, reeks of whiskey and gasoline, as it paints a pained lover’s tale. Toward the five minute mark as the narrative dissolves, gentle pianos and waning drone thrash into a “Freebird”-worthy riff that carries the song out. English Oceans, the band’s 12th album, is out today on ATO Records.