Drive-By Truckers/Welcome 2 Club XIII/ATO Records
3.5 Out of Five Stars
Credit one of the South’s finest, The Drive-By Truckers, with maintaining their consistency over the course of a 26-year combined career, even after suffering the departure of one of its early principals, Jason Isbell. Nevertheless, with Welcome 2 Club XIII they opt for a slight change in tack and emerge with another triumph that serves their reputation well.
That said, credit founding members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, and bandmates Jay Gonzalez, Matt Patton, and Brad Morgan with always aiming high in terms of effort and ambition. Their earlier epics, Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day, English Oceans, and The Unraveling raised the bar significantly and proved definitely that this Athens Georgia-based band is an essential outfit clearly capable of moving the Southern Rock mantra further towards the future.
While Welcome 2 Club XIII has been described by the band itself as autobiographical in nature, it still manages to retain the populist appeal that drove those earlier efforts. The sizzling, soaring guitar riffs that ignite the album’s opener, “Maria’s Awful Disclosure” combine with the combustible effect of the title track, along with the robust revelry of “The Driver,” the brassy infusion of “Every Single Storied Flameout” and the celebratory sound of “Wilder Days.” There are other highlights as well—the dynamic delivery of “Billy Ringo in the Dark,” the Neil Young-sounding ”Shake and Pine” and the concluding narrative “Forged in Heaven and Hell,” chief among them. Various friends and fellow travelers add their input—Margo Price, Mike Mills, and singer/songwriter Schaefer Llana—among them.
Not surprisingly, Welcome 2 Club XIII stands as another triumph for a band that’s never short when it comes to attaining a high bar. Consider this a club where everyone is welcome.
Photo Credit: Brantley Guitierrez / Big Hassle