I put a lot of thought into how to write about this album. There are a ton of directions I could go with it, but in the end I decided that the “like we were talking in a bar, while not trying to sound like pitchfork” approach that ninebulllets takes so often would work perfectly for this particular release.
In a way, The Fine Print perfectly encompasses the “duality” thing that the Truckers have made a career of writing about. On one hand, it’s the best album they’ve released in many years. On the other, the bulk of it was recorded years ago. On one hand, this album features that classic sound that DBT fans grew to love. On the other, the bulk of this album features a lineup that’s long since gone. That said, this album could be (maybe? possibly?) thought of as a cocoon album. It’s the last album the band has to do for New West Records, a label the band had grown increasingly uninfatuated with over the years, leaving them free to move forward on their own label, Ruth Street Records.
The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities and Rarities 2003-2008), as it’s properly called, is largely culled from the sessions that gave birth to The Dirty South. None of it is especially new to any DBT enthusiast, but the bulk of it hasn’t seen much circulation outside of the card-carrying DBT fan club. The album features two tracks from ex-Trucker Jason Isbell, and is surprisingly lacking any Shonna-fronted songs. I say surprisingly because I figured they’d put on one there, if for nothing else, cause she’s currently a “singer” in the band. The Isbell-fronted tracks rock your face off, while also serving as a cruel reminder of how good the band was when he was in it and how much has been lost (on both ends) since his departure. The standout track for me, a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Play It All Night Long”, also serves as a reminder of how good the Truckers can be from opening riff to closing bridge, basically forcing your hand to rotate the volume knob clockwise.
So, here we are. The best DBT album since The Dirty South and it’s a collection of toss-offs. What does this say about the band, if anything? Many of the tracks that have appeared on DBT albums in the past had been in the band’s arsenal for years prior to getting a “proper” release, so it’s not like that’s anything new. However, to be honest, the band has not really “rocked” since The Dirty South, and at times has outright sucked (see: A Blessing And A Curse). Before any fans send me hate mail, I, too, like Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, but let’s be honest, it’s not the album you’re gonna give someone if you wanna give them one cd to represent the band’s sound. Who knows, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark may be the Southern Rock Opera of the modern Trucker-era, but (IMO) it’s set apart from the material prior to ABAAC (an album I do not even acknowledge).
Therefore the question is this, is The Fine Print a siren’s call to a Trucker era past, or is it a warning shot that the “rocking” version of the Truckers is back? Either way, this album has a very secured position on the ninebullets.net Essential Listening list and it’s a must have for any Trucker fan.
Drive-By Truckers Official Site, Drive-By Truckers on myspace, Buy The Fine Print