Nine Songs: Drive-By Truckers
There weren’t supposed to be two Drive-By Truckers albums this year.
Four years on from the pre-election fury of 2016’s American Band, this January saw the release of The Unraveling, its doomed and desperate counterpart. If the former record’s manifesto was “compelled but not defeated”, The Unraveling’s key lyric - “There’s something to be said for hanging in there” - belies the relentless horror of the last four years.
With the album finally out, the Truckers’ plan for the rest of the year was, as ever, to tour tour tour - not for nothing are they commonly cited as one of the hardest working rock groups in America.
“And then,” as the band’s frontman Patterson Hood explains on a chilly evening earlier this month, “2020 happens, and what the fuck, you know, there's nothing.”
At least, there was nothing. You can describe Drive-By Truckers as many things, but complacent ain’t one of them. Our interview coincides with the physical release of The New OK, the band’s second LP of 2020, which was given a surprise digital release in early October. Most of its songs were cherry-picked from the late 2018 sessions at Memphis’s legendary Sun Studios which yielded The Unraveling. However, it also features a pair of even more topical tracks whose parts were recorded remotely, an experiment which began with “Quarantine Together”, a surprise Bandcamp single which dropped in April.
And with much of the Truckers experience rooted in the five members sharing a space - whether in the studio or onstage - Hood is rightfully happy with the results, which stand as a testament to the connection and resilience of the band’s current line-up.
“I had faith that it would work out,” he tells me about rallying the band to record remotely. “And I love the fact that as everybody's part started coming in, I could hear that everyone in the band left room for each other in the arrangement and played as if we were all in the room together. I think you could blindfold somebody and they wouldn't be able to necessarily tell which songs were done with us all live in the room, and which ones were done by us sending tracks back and forth. I'm real proud of that.”
The New OK caps an accidental trilogy of insightful records about Our Current Moment. I say accidental, because Hood was really hoping that American Band - a fiery state-of-the-nation address, recorded as Trump won the Republican primaries, and released weeks before he won the presidency - would be a one-off. “There's always been a political aspect to what we do, from the first album onward. But as far as just being so direct about it, I thought that that was going to be something we did [on American Band] because we felt like we had to do it, and then we would move on and do something different.”
“I honestly thought that [Trump] would get his ass kicked, and it would teach the Republicans a lesson, and maybe they would move back in a little more sane direction. The daily barrage of bullshit just took up so much space in our heads, like, ‘Oh fuck, they're putting babies in cages for Christ's sake!’ So the songs kept coming and we ended up with three albums instead of one. I sure would rather not ever have had to [write any more songs about Trump], that's for sure.”
The new album definitely benefits from a lighter touch, and a slight shift in focus. There are soul-inflected songs of heartbreak, witty travelogues and tour diaries, and a reverently irreverent cover of the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away” which closes the album with an almost gleeful “Gabba gabba hey!” into the void. But the record’s heaviest moments share a gravitational pull with songs like “Babies in Cages” and “What It Means” from its earlier counterparts.
“Watching the Orange Clouds”, one of the two home-recorded tracks, is a particular favourite of Hood’s. Typing this the day after some horrific kilt-clad protests across the States, his line about “boys too stupid to really be proud” hits especially hard over such a relatively serene track. “This summer, living here in Portland, things got crazy. There were protests all over America, but the ones in Portland became particularly heated and ugly, and then Trump sent the troops in and out of our city for half of the summer, and it really fucked shit up. So a lot of the brand new stuff that ended up on that record came out of what I wrote this summer during the occupation.”
“It’s one of my favourite things we've ever recorded, what the band did with it just took it to such another level, and I really can't wait to see what it morphs into when we start playing that one live.”
While Trump being voted out has “definitely helped the mood” at Hood’s Portland family home, his fury at the continued unravelling remains, not least because of the critical senate runoffs in his adopted home state of Georgia. “I feel endless guilt over not being there to actually be a voter. It makes me feel like I left when I was needed, you know? So we're doing whatever we can to try to help the candidates - they've got a shot, they've got a chance of winning.”
Some hope creeps into Hood’s voice as he continues. “It's not going to be easy, but it does help that right now, the Republican Party in Georgia is very divided and angry. There's still time between now and the election for them to get their shit together and really fight back hard, and they probably will. But I do think that right now, they're at a teeny bit of a disadvantage, because there's so much infighting over whether Trump really won the state or not - which it's obvious he didn't. The Attorney General of the state who certified the results is a devout, lifelong Republican, and he's getting death threats. But that's what happens when your base consists of a whole lot of crazy rednecks, it's asking for trouble.”
“It's dragged out forever, watching [Trump] basically try to refuse to leave,” he concludes. “And we all hate him to such a point that, you know, I never really want to raise my kids to wish bad on anybody. But he's kind of the exception.”
Hood's Nine Songs selections barely touch on politics, and you can hear the relief in his voice when our conversation changes gears. Instead, they’re a collection of cinematic vignettes which have clearly informed his own work and borne out of an avid attitude towards record collecting. “I've still got the records I bought when I was eight, and they're all in really good shape, really clean. Other than losing 1,500 records in a divorce once, I've got every record I've ever bought. My first job was in a record store when I was 16, I worked there for about five years, and basically every penny I made either went for beer or records. I've always been fanatical.”
“I’ve always loved stories and storytelling,” he continues. “Before I started writing songs, I thought I wanted to be a filmmaker someday and I've always said that would be my next choice. I'm probably as much of a movie nut as I am a music nut, so it kind of makes sense where they intersect would be the story song.”
With nearly a quarter-century of the Truckers under his belt, it's fitting that Hood is as far-reaching and insightful in conversation as he is on record. Every song he talks about is either tied to a personal tale - often linked to his father, legendary session bassist David Hood, who played on records by Aretha Franklin, The Staples Singers, and Paul Simon - or a well-considered widescreen take about the artist’s entire career.
His civic pride in Athens is also such that I can’t refuse him an unofficial tenth song - the late Vic Chesnutt’s “Speed Racer” - but with so many singles and albums lining his walls, it’s pretty impressive that Patterson’s Nine Songs begins with what he describes in no uncertain terms as his favourite song in the world.
“If this had been a one song list, this song probably would the one that would have been on it. I remember hearing it on the radio for years as a little kid and thinking it was Carole King, even to the point of like playing my Dad's copy of Tapestry and being disappointed that this song wasn't on it.
“I had a cool older cousin that’s a couple years older, and he always had good taste and would turn me on to stuff. He was over at our house one time when I’d just turned 12, and he pulled out Something/Anything?. He had just been turned on to it, and I think he was skipping through it - I remember he played “The Night the Carousel Burned Down”, and I really liked that.
“When “Hello It's Me” came on, I was like, 'Holy shit, that's that song. That's a dude singing that?!' I immediately bought that record, played it to death, and became a huge Todd Rundgren fan for years and years. Then, you know, life happens and you move on; you're listening to different things. It had probably been several years since I’d really listened to it or paid much attention to it. I don't know if I'd ever really thought about the words in an analytical way.
“When I was about 28, I was in this really tumultuous relationship with a girl, where I was in love with her, and it was a lot of on and off, on and off - a lot of mixed signals. “I'm breaking up with you,” and then she'd call me at two in the morning and ask if I wanted to come over, and of course, I'd be like a puppy dog. One of those things, you know. I was working a shitty job in a restaurant as a fry cook in a chicken wing place. It was an early morning shift and the food stunk - it was one of those terrible restaurant jobs - and we had had this big fight right before I went to work. I basically left her house in tears.
“So I'm there frying chicken wings and the radio is playing AM radio-type top 40 stuff. “Hello It’s Me” came on, and it was the first time I'd ever really heard the words in that way. It completely got to me. I had to lock myself in the bathroom and get my composure back to finish my shift. I was like, God, ‘that song completely sums up what I'm going through, because it’s all mixed signals.’
"It's a really complex piece of writing, because he's telling her “You can be free,” but he doesn't really want her to be. There's a lot of co-dependency and passive aggression in it, which I was probably guilty of a lot at that time in my life too. It really spoke to me in a way that I will always remember.
“So it's just a special song. And to put that much complexity into such a short song, it doesn't really have a normal structure at all, either. The hook is the first line of the song, but it doesn't really say “Hello, it's me” very much in it, yet that's what you always remember and think of, like you would a chorus, even though it doesn’t have a chorus. It's almost like it has like two bridges or something. And then there’s that strange ending on the album too.
“My Dad is a session player and I grew up around studio musicians, where everything has to be perfect at all times, so of course my rebellion was to fall in love with punk rock, I play in a band that definitely leaves the rough edges on stuff. I think that was part of my attraction to that record. Side four of the album was basically recorded live in the studio with false starts, mistakes and banter between takes and all of that. It was like, ‘God, that's what it's really like.’"
“I probably still have the ‘45 of this somewhere from when it came out, but I fell in love with it again in my early thirties. I really got heavy into Curtis Mayfield, because why not? I mean, he's great! And again, this song so much more complex than it comes off on the surface.
“It was basically written for the soundtrack of Superfly, which is what they called a “blaxploitation” movie, but I love the fact that that soundtrack elevated that film to such a degree. The movie is basically about pimps, drug dealers and hustlers, but the moral counterpoint to all of that is provided by the music. The songs all come from this almost religious place or something, and it's really beautiful.
“And again, structurally, it's bizarre. It really does meander, and yet, it’s obviously very intentional. There's definitely a method to the madness of how it meanders around, which I love. I noticed that after I'd made this list that almost every one of these songs is, structurally, very meandering, and I think I'm attracted to that.”
“That's a really deeply personal record for me. I started writing songs when I was eight, and that's about the exact time that Dad started working with Maggie and Terre Roche. They first came to Muscle Shoals to sing backup vocals with Paul Simon. They ended up recording half of There Goes Rhymin’ Simon with my Dad at that studio, and Paul Simon brought Maggie and Terre with him to sing backing vocals. He was kind of mentoring them, I guess, and then he was going to produce at least part of their record down there.
“And then he ended up kind of abandoning them, just moving on and leaving them there. And no one really knew what to do with them. Dad was like, ‘Well, hell, I think it's cool. I'll do it!’ – he kind of took on the project because someone needed to and ended up inheriting that record and took it across the finish line.
“I never went on like work trips with my Dad ever, but the first time I ever went to New York City was the one exception. Dad took me with him when he went up to mix that album with Phil Ramone in A & R Studios. My Mom and I went up, and that's the first time I'd ever gotten to see New York. One night they finished early, and the three of us and Maggie and Terre, all went to Greenwich Village and Chinatown. It was the first time I ever rode the subway. So I've got this memory of the ten-year-old me walking down the streets of Greenwich Village, holding hands with Maggie and Terre Roche, who of course were just fetching and beautiful - I had a mad crush on them.
“I would play a cassette of that record over and over, even before it came out, and it was a huge influence on me as a writer, particularly that song. Just when I was trying to learn how to write songs, that one left a really big imprint on me. That song, more than anything else on the list, has been an influence on me as a writer, even though you probably can't hear it in my songs, because I don't sound anything like them, and I live a very different life. But the writing itself really taught me a lot about what can be done in that artform - the places you can go, ways of expressing things, and all of that.
"There’s a line in “Down the Dream” that goes “There ought to be something to fall back on, like a knife or a career”, and it’s maybe my favourite line of any song in the world, it’s an incredible line. I've been working for years on this book about songs and songwriting and my relationship with it, and probably will for the rest of my life. But you know how you’ll often put a quote from something at the beginning of your book? That's the quote at the beginning of mine.”
“I bought the album because “Chuck E’s in Love” was a hit, and I loved that song, but this is the song that really killed me. Actually, Pirates, the album after that is the one I really love - it’s definitely a desert island album for me.
“I almost put “We Belong Together” on here instead, but as a song standing on its own, “The Last Chance Texaco’ probably worked better for this list. It’s the song that shows where she was headed, whereas if I'm gonna listen to “We Belong Together”, the record is going to keep playing at least until side one’s over.
“It's just a beautiful song, and it’s so haunting. I just saw the other day, maybe even after I did this list, that she's got an autobiography coming out, and that's what she called it. She called it The Last Chance Texaco, so maybe she feels something extra about that one too.”
“I love a story song that doesn't necessarily tell the story, but just kind of implies it. Probably everyone who hears “9th and Hennepin” hears a different story - it sets more of a scene than anything.
“I knew of Tom Waits for a long time, but I really hadn't really paid any attention until Rain Dogs came out, and I was so in love with that record. David Letterman had him on pretty regularly - there's a ton of great YouTube clips out there - and he played something off that record on Letterman, and I went and bought it the next day. Then I started working my way backwards and forwards. I love it all, but I fell in love with the Frank’s Wild Years trilogy first, and that’s still my favourite.
“When I finally got to see Tom Waits in 2006, that was the song that I was most hoping he'd play, and he basically played the top five songs I most wanted to see him play. I would have been fine with whatever he played, I was just so happy to be there, since he doesn't play out very often, and he certainly hardly ever comes to the part of the country I lived in. So it was such a treat to get to see him.
“He told a story leading up to it where he talked about the fact that 9th and Hennepin were these streets in Minneapolis, and that when he wrote that song, it was the most dangerous intersection in America. He said 'The last time I was there, I went to Starbucks. I think I bought a sweater', which was awesome.
“Both Neil Young and Tom Waits, they both have the Grandpa Jones thing, y’know? They both did a bit of an old man schtick when they were young men and then they grew into it. I think that might be the secret. It's like you have your Steven Tyler’s and people like that, bless their hearts, that try to act like they're 25 when they're 65, but then you have the Grandpa Jones factory - the people who’ve been playing an old man since they were young and then just age into it.
“Like, old man Dylan is some of my favourite stuff of his. Obviously, those classic ‘60s records are amazing, but I probably spend more time playing the later records. “Murder Most Foul” is probably my song of the year, it's a tremendous piece of work.
“We’ve had a lot of construction here at our house, basically building our house around us while we've been living in it the last few years. So at midnight that night, when it came out, I turned it on and we spent like two hours in the kitchen, with my wife painting, and me fixing us cocktails, listening to that record on repeat just over and over.
“It really casts a spell. The first time you listen to it, or at least the first time I listened to it, fifteen minutes into it, when he's just naming off songs and stuff, it’s like, ‘What the fuck?’, you know? But then when you keep listening to it, it all starts making sense, and it transcends what it seems like it is on the surface, for sure.”
“I first heard of Big Star when I worked at the record store. My boss - who I’m still really close friends with - one of his best friends was a writer for the local paper in my hometown, and for some reason I ended up at his house one night when was I was probably 19. We were playing records in his house, and he was playing me Kinks records, because he had all the original pressings of their stuff, at a time when they were hard still hard to find in America. Arthur and stuff like that, which I still love.
“Then I remember him asking if I'd ever heard Big Star. He played Radio City, and it was the greatest thing I've ever heard. At some point later I started looking for it, and at that time none of that stuff was available. You couldn't find it anywhere, but I ended up finding an import of Big Star’s Third.
"I didn't know which record it was that he had played me, I just thought 'Oh, there's that band!' So I put it on expecting to find “September Gurls” and “O My Soul”, and instead I got “Kanga Roo” and I didn't know what to think about it! Of course, I ended up becoming obsessed with it and falling in love with it on its own terms.
“Then sometime later, they put the first two albums out on one CD, so I bought that, and then I was just gone. This was 1992, around the same time I was breaking up with that girl I was talking about earlier. My soundtrack for the actual breakup was that Big Star CD, which I played over and over and over and over.
“I’m really close friends with [late Big Star producer] Jim Dickinson’s sons, Luther and Cody, and I got to work with Jim a little bit right before he got really sick. Myself and my Dad, Jim, Luther and Cody made about half of a record. Then last year, right before the holidays, we recorded a few more songs and finished up the tracking of it, and I'm hoping we'll be able to finish it and put it out as sort of a tribute to Jim once all of this bullshit is over
“Y’know, Jim’s gone, but he wanted us to finish the album without him, and before he died, he left us instructions on a notepad. He said that he wanted any keyboards that we recorded for it to be played by Spooner Oldham, so we brought Spooner in to play on the stuff we recorded last year, per Jim's instructions. We’re gonna call it Dickinson’s & Hoods. I actually need to reach out to Luther and start coming up with a game plan.
“But “September Gurls” is just an absolutely perfect pop song, period. I went back and forth, because I almost put “Kanga Roo” on the list, which is the opposite end of the Big Star spectrum. I love it just as much, but the thought was, ‘If I'm going to be actually having a conversation about the songwriting, it’s probably easier to about talk about “September Gurls”’, whereas so much of what's great about ‘Kanga Roo’ goes beyond the song itself. It's more about the moment of it.
“The last time I ever had a conversation with Jim was about the cowbell he played on the song. I think it was probably one of the things that he was proudest of in his entire career, probably right up to playing the tack piano on ‘Wild Horses’ and being the keyboard player on Time Out of Mind.”
“This is such a stunning record. The second Glands album is still my favourite album of this century, and my number two album of this century so far is probably the PJ Harvey record I mention later on. And they came out in the same summer, within a month or two of each other.
“Moving to Athens in the mid-‘90s was amazing. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven; I could almost tear up talking about it, it was such a big deal to me. I grew up in the Muscle Shoals area, which is this beloved mecca for its musical history, but I came of age as that was all ending. I didn't really experience any of that - it was my Dad's life; it wasn't my life.
“By the time I came of age, the studios were all setting down and going bankrupt. Most of the musicians fled town and went to other places, with my Dad being one of the holdouts that refused to leave, which wasn't pretty, because there wasn't a lot for him. So my Dad had a couple of decades of really rough times, trying to figure out how to eke a living as a studio musician without studios really being a thing anymore. He did a lot of driving back and forth to Nashville, and Nashville being the way it is, you don't really get to be a big part of that unless you live there, so he was always a little bit of an outsider.
“In Muscle Shoals, when it had existed, it wasn't a live music scene, it wasn't like you'd go into a club and see all this shit happening. It was a dry county, blue collar, redneck, churchgoing town, extremely Bible Belt, religious and conservative. And the music scene was kind of like a secret society. When I went to school, I didn't talk about what my Dad did for a living. Ever. Not until I moved to Athens, a week after my 30th birthday.
“When I moved, all of a sudden I lived in a place where all of this shit was happening, and I felt like my life truly began. All the good stuff in my life really did begin then, that's what led to me forming Drive-By Truckers and it's where I met my wife and started my family. I worked sound in clubs, so I saw bands five nights a week - good bands, bad bands, and occasionally, transcendently incredible, genius, great bands. I’d be doing monitors for, like, The Olivia Tremor Control and Vic Chesnutt.
“Actually, I regret that there's not a Vic song on my list. If I was re-doing it, that might be the one thing that I would change. That was just a mistake, but everyone always does a top ten list, so I love the fact that this list was Nine Songs, because that almost implied that spot being open. But the missing piece would be a Vic song. If I had to just say one, off the cuff, it's really hard to deny “Speed Racer”, because it's such a ballsy song.
“There’s a little short film called Speed Racer, which was done around the time they were making West Of Rome, which is probably my favourite of his albums. There's a scene where he's talking about playing that song for his Grandmother for the first time, who was very, very religious. That's the song that has the repeated hook “I am an atheist” as the chorus; his Grandmother started crying when he played it, and he's telling the story and he's kind of in tears telling the story, saying to her ‘Granny, Granny, it's just how I feel! I've got to be honest and true to myself.’
“But I never did sound for The Glands, I just I kept hearing about them. Everyone in town knew Ross [Shapiro, Glands frontman], and I didn't even know him initially. I just knew of him. There's a funny story that a lot of musicians in Athens used to tell about him, that he would be the grumpy guy in the back of the club. You’d go, ‘Hey, Ross, what do you think about the band?’ And he’d reply, ‘I'm doing better stuff in this in my basement.’
“He was always talking about this thing he was working on, but no one ever heard it, except for this a handful of people that were involved who were sworn to secrecy. He wouldn't let anybody have tapes of the work in progress or anything. It was like, he would invite you over to play on something, and then you'd leave, but you wouldn't get to leave with it. So, when that first album came out, the entire town was like, ‘Holy shit, it really is as good as he kept saying it would be!’
“When they followed that up with the self-titled album in the summer of 2000, you could be walking down the street in Athens, and you would hear different songs playing out of every building you'd walk past. It felt like every place in town had that playing - it was coming out of everyone's car windows as I drove by, it was like a Beatles album, but purely local.
“The first time I ever saw them was in Austin, Texas. I was touring all the time, and they didn't play that often anyway, but they were opening for Calexico in Austin and I had a day off on the road, near where they happened to be playing. I was so excited to finally get to see The Glands. And then right after that, they broke up.
“But shortly before Ross got sick, they reunited. The Georgia Theatre had burned down in 2009, and no one thought they’d be able to rebuild it. The owner basically went to Ross, and said to him, ‘Look, we're gonna build the theatre back, and when we rebuild, will you play the grand opening?’ And Ross was like, ‘Yeeeeeeah, if you build it, we’ll play it,’ because he didn't think they would. When they rebuilt the theatre in 2011, The Glands played the show and I drove six hours into town, just to be there for the night, and I'm so glad I did. It's still one of my all-time favourite shows ever.
“Ross was also the curmudgeonly record store guy. He ran Schoolkids Records in downtown Athens, and people would come in and ask him for stuff, and if he didn't like what they asked him for, he'd be kind of an asshole about it. He was totally that guy. And I ended up really, really liking him as a person. I wish I'd gotten to know him better [Shapiro died of lung cancer in 2016].
“He generally hated when people brought kids in the store, which is understandable, I guess. I would always go with my daughter, who at that time was like three or four, and we lived really close to downtown. Our big father/daughter thing was walking from our house to downtown - I would go buy records, take her for ice cream, and then we'd walk home. That was something we did it regularly if I was home from the road.
“My daughter was really into dinosaurs, as little kids sometimes are, and even though she was so young, she couldn't really read or anything yet. She was barely three, but she was so into dinosaurs, she knew how to spell out dinosaur words. And behind the counter at the record store, they had a giant T. Rex poster, so my little three-year-old daughter goes, ‘Look dad! T. Rex! T. Rex!’ and she was really excited. So from then on, she was okay with Ross. She was the one little kid who'd come into the store that he would actually be really sweet to. I was like, ‘God, you can even charm Ross!’”
“I heard of her from Dry, but the 4- track demos from Rid Of Me was the first PJ Harvey record I probably bought, and I probably still like it better than the album. Then I kind of followed the next couple of records halfway, but I didn't really keep up too heavy until Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea came out. And man, that one just hit me between the eyes.
"I love every second of that record, and it's one of those records where every song is so great, but the last song is the best of all. “We Float” is just truly one of my favourite songs in the world.
“There's a weird, weird thing about how sometimes foreigners can nail a place - they see a different viewpoint on things than locals do, you know? Like The Stones’ take on American country and American blues and American soul. There's a certain truth to that, that sometimes someone can see it in a different way than someone who's live there. You think of New York, you're obviously gonna think of Lou Reed, the Velvet Underground, and the CBGBs bands. But there's something about the way that city affected somebody like PJ Harvey, that their New York record is such a stunning, quintessential New York record.
“I came from a small Alabama town and I fell in love with New York when I was 11, when I went there with my dad and The Roches, like we talked about earlier. And that PJ Harvey record is kind of what New York felt like to me as a little kid, seeing skyscrapers for the first time.
“Our band started playing New York in ’98, and by 2000, we were pulling more people in New York than we were in Georgia or anywhere in the south. So we were road tripping up there all the time, and every time we'd go, we just have this amazing time. It was this kind of love affair going on, and when that record came out in 2000, it soundtracked it. Then after 9/11, the record took on another slant, because we all saw the skyscrapers fall.
“There's a lot of emotional baggage with that record, that couldn't have been intended when the record was made. But that's the beautiful thing about music, how it can take on these other lives, and I think that might be something that follows through this list of songs. How there are all kinds of songs that resonate to me because of personal baggage, that have nothing to do with the people who actually wrote the songs and made the records.”
“It's funny, this is my second favourite Neil Young song, and I decided to include it instead of “Cortez the Killer”, which is my favourite. I love that song, it speaks to me so much musically, as a guitar player, and the lyrics too. I love how it says so much and paints such a picture with really so few words. “Ambulance Blues” is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum, because it says so much with a lot of words.
“It's one of the greatest stream of consciousness songs. It’s so evocative of so many emotions, and so many thoughts and kind of like what we were talking about with the new Dylan song, at first some aspects of it almost seem haphazard, but over repeated listens, it seems so perfect.
“That’s by far my favourite era of Neil Young’s career - the “doom trilogy”, which to me is actually four records, because I always include Zuma too, because it kind of has him coming out of the other side. It seems like making Zuma was almost a celebration of surviving the doom. I'm gonna have to save up my money and try to find a way to get the new Archives box, because I really want that.
“My Dad was a huge Neil Young fan. He had all of his records at the house, with the exception of Time Fades Away, but apart from that, he had every Neil Young record until Trans. He didn't like Trans, but I did. I grew up hearing After the Gold Rush and Harvest all the time, but I can remember at 10 really not liking Tonight's the Night. I couldn't fathom that this was the same person that did “Heart of Gold”. I guess that’s the Neil Young fan cliché - at least for the casual Neil Young fans who like Harvest and bitch about the other stuff.
“But I outgrew it, and probably in my mid-twenties, I got really into Neil Young again, around the time Freedom came out. That's when I really started going back, and On the Beach, which “Ambulance Blues” is from wasn’t available for so long. Same with Time Fades Away. When I got my copy of that, I was so excited to find one, because I'd been looking for a couple of years. “Don’t Be Denied” is another one that almost went on the list.
“So yeah, I'm a huge, huge fan, and I have a lot of respect for the fact that he's so fearless about making bad records too. I think there's a beauty in that, that I really respect. I mean, he would probably take exception to me phrasing it that way, because he might say there are no bad Neil Young records…but there are. But they're interestingly bad!
“Landing on Water is kind of bad, but it's not boring. Our live sound engineer when we tour, Henry Barbe, was the assistant engineer on our last two albums, and he loves Landing on Water. When we were in Memphis recording the eighteen songs that became a big part of the last two records, he would drive us to and from the studio, from the Airbnb house that we were all renting together. He was our designated driver at the end of the night to drive our drunk asses back home, and he would have that record cranked in the car! And it’s awesome - I love that there's someone that loves that record.”