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Back in summer 2021, when the return of concerts seemed like a possibility, the Drive-By Truckers booked a few days of studio time. The hard-touring southern rock band didn’t want to practice, per se, before getting back on the road; they just wanted to get used to performing together again. So they decided to demo songs Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, the band’s two leaders, had written earlier in the pandemic. Before they hit the studio, though, the Truckers were asked to fill in last minute at Under the Big Sky, a music festival in Montana. The group didn’t even get a sound check before taking the stage for the first time in over a year in direct sunlight in the high 90s. “And it was one of the happiest hours of my life,” Hood says of the set. The Drive-By Truckers don’t chase perfection in their live shows anyway. “Rock and roll should go off the rails,” Hood says. “If it’s never gonna go off the rails, then it’s probably not enough rock and roll, at least for my tastes.” It’s that attitude that has made the band a beloved live act and led to a 26-year career (including as a launchpad for Americana singer-songwriter Jason Isbell). It also informed the band’s 14th studio album, Welcome 2 Club XIII, out today. The record came from those three days cutting demos in 2021, not wasted after Hood and Cooley realized they’d made a full album.

vulture.com