Drive-By Truckers’ 10th studio album, 2014’s English Oceans, finds the prolific Georgia-bred Roots rockers rolling down the same dusty highway that has made them one of the singular acts of the last 15 years — twang-infested, Skynyrd-esque guitars, modest yet affecting vocals and lyrics that illuminate the lives of everyday Southerners. Yet it’s not long before one notices the band calling an audible and shifting lyrical gears slightly. Mike Cooley — the less prolific half of the band’s singer/guitarist frontdude duo with Patterson Hood — penned half the songs on English Oceans. Perhaps the most memorable of Cooley’s contributions is the evocative “Made Up English Oceans,” one of several songs allegedly inspired by fellow Georgia native Lee Atwater, a Republican consultant to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who probably did more to poison our current political climate than just about anyone. “See, once you grab them by the pride, their hearts are bound to follow/Their natural fear of anything less manly or less natural,” Cooley sings in a plainspoken delivery backed by a mid-tempo gallop dominated by longtime drummer Brad Morgan’s insistent beat.
“We’ve always written independently,” Cooley told theartsdesk.com on the eve of English Oceans’ release. “Whoever wrote the song just brings it in and plays it for everybody and that’s pretty much it. That’s about as collaborative as it gets. Everybody figures out their own part and throws their own colors into it, and it becomes what it becomes.”
Given Cooley’s prominence this time out, English Oceans has become one of Drive-By Truckers’ most distinctive albums in a discography full of them.
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS play at U.S Bank Arena Saturday, March 21. Find tickets/more info here .