Nearly 20 years ago, genre-bending Southern rock outfit Drive-By Truckers got their first shot of mainstream success with an intriguing concept album called The Dirty South. Now, the group is revisiting that release on The Complete Dirty South. It's a release that frontman Patterson Hood is deeming a "director's cut" of the original work, featuring an expanded, altered track list and a few songs that are remixed, featuring new vocals or both. (All tracks have been remastered by Greg Calbi.)
"The period from 2002, a few months after we self-released our breakthrough album, Southern Rock Opera, through the end of 2005, when we wrapped up the Dirty South Tour, is widely considered to be our band's glory days," Hood explained in a statement. "In January of 2004, the label realized that we had a new completed album and were hoping to release it that summer. Not only that, it was to be another double album. They weren't too happy about any of this. We took their unhappiness as an insult and so it went."
After a compromised, shortened version (still packed at just over 70 minutes) became their bestselling work at the time, the Truckers continued from strength to strength, signing with ATO for 2010's The Big To-Do, their first Top 10 rock album. A label restructuring allowed for even better relations with their former home, though, and now they have the chance to do it their way. "Where possible we preserved the original John Agnello mixes but remixed the bonus tracks and also fixed a couple of vocal issues that I have always regretted about the original version (for purists, those versions still exist out there, but this gave us a chance to present it the way I've always wished it could be...This version finally allows it to be heard and seen the way we had always hoped and intended."
Founded by singer/guitarist Hood, the son of Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section bassist David, and singer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Cooley, the Drive-By Truckers' musical eclecticism and determination to push back against the perceived conservative ideals of the South. In 2001, Hood and Cooley's songwriting skills were bolstered with the addition of a new member, singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Jason Isbell; The Dirty South was his second album with the band, with Isbell's then-wife Shonna Tucker on bass, drummer Brad Morgan and longtime producer/sideman David Barbe rounding out the core group. The Dirty South, like predecessor Decoration Day (2003), is a loose concept album about Southern living, the legends ("The Day John Henry Died") musical icons ("Carl Perkins' Cadillac") and ordinary folk that struggle to stay strong in a changing world ("Puttin' People on the Moon," "Never Gonna Change"). The three-song suite "The Boys from Alabama," "Cottonseed" and "The Buford Stick" examine the work of real-life Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, written from the points of view of the mafiosos and vice-loving criminals Pusser waged a one-man war against in his life (inspiring the cult film Walking Tall).
After The Dirty South, the Drive-By Truckers put seven albums into the Top 10 of Billboard's independent chart; five of them also reached similar positions on the magazine's rock survey. Isbell departed in 2007 for a celebrated solo career - a new documentary on his work is now streaming - and Tucker left four years later. (Hood, Cooley and Morgan continue to work with instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez and singer/bassist Matt Patton.) But The Complete Dirty South reunites the principal songwriters of the album in the package; Hood has penned new liner notes while Cooley and Isbell offer track-by-track commentary. Updated artwork by the band's longtime artist Wes Freed (who passed away in 2022) complete the set.
The Complete Dirty South will be available June 16. Check out the full track list and pre-order your copy below.
The Complete Dirty South (New West, 2023)
+ recut vocal
- Where the Devil Don't Stay
- The Day John Henry Died
- Puttin' People on the Moon * +
- Goode's Field Road +
- Carl Perkins' Cadillac
- The Sands of Iwo Jima * +
- The Boys from Alabama
- The Buford Stick
- Never Gonna Change
- The Great Car Dealer War *
- Daddy's Cup
- Lookout Mountain
- Goddamn Lonely Love
Disc 1, Tracks 1-4, 6, 8-9 and Disc 2, Tracks 1-4 and 6-8 released in different order as New West NW6058, 2004
Disc 1, Tracks 5 and 7 and Disc 2, Track 5 released on The Fine Print (A Collection of Oddities and Rarities) 2003-2008 - New West NW6169, 2009