Live at Plan 9 July 13, 2006
New West Records
Fifteen years ago the Drive-By Truckers played one hell of an in-store. They were at Plan 9 Records to help the store celebrate its 25th Anniversary. This resulted in a two-hour grab-bag of the band’s best material up to that point. It was also, for many, the very best line-up of the band. Shona Tucker and Jason Isbell still in the fold, pedal steel legend John Neff about to bow out, and of course the songs and singing of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley pushing and pulling and – and from – the same muscle.
Hood and Cooley wrote so many great songs that you could almost see Isbell as the George Harrison of the group, leaving to realise himself as a ‘proper’ songwriter rather than a cameo player.
But you can’t deny that the hits, and the frenzy, the grit and the soul, was – and always is – from Cooley and Hood with this band. Southern Rock Opera classics like Ronnie and Neil, the best, smartest trucker anthem ever – 18 Wheels of Love – has the jam-packed crowd whooping and hollerin’.
A pitch-perfect rendition of The Rolling Stones’ Moonlight Mile is the lone cover of this set. All around it classic Hood and Cooley material with a walk-on from Jason. If Hood is the cool head of the band then Cooley is strong heart (Daddy’s Cup) providing the sweat and sinew and soul to much of this set.
It’s been available before – as a bootleg. And then as a limited edition Record Store Day release. It’s being re-pressed on triple vinyl soon but now it’s available for the first time in full wherever you get music. You hit up your favourite – or most convenient – streamer-site and there it is. Music. Glorious music. The Drive-By Truckers as close as they ever were to being a great southern rock show band.
I’m of the opinion they were just hitting their peak here, though there was a bit to wade through I actually think they’ve just continued to get better, but perhaps the conventional wisdom is this is the group at its absolute peak. Well, either way, this is a fantastic live document. A killer set. A band firing on all cylinders. And a version of the band we’ll never get to hear again.