Career retrospective from the best band you’ve never heard of
At the height of summer last year, on these pages we reviewed an EP by a band called Dirty Truckers. We had first come across the band three months before when we wrote about an album by Tom Baker and The Snakes (pay attention, we’ll be asking questions later).
The two things are linked inextricably. Baker fronts Dirty Truckers. Forming them in 1999, when he decided that he wanted to take his music in what he terms a “rock n roots” direction.
The result of those 19 years of off and on labours brings everyone to this. A career retrospective culled from four releases and one which proves that if you haven’t heard these particular tales from the underground, you need to rectify that pretty damn sharpish.
If the cover doesn’t give it away, the first song “Like Him” certainly will. These are musicians who love playing rock n roll in small, sweaty rooms. To crowds of people that are into the music. That music is more or less what it would be like if Steve Earle fronted The Replacements (it is instructive that there’s a cover of Earle’s Hardcore Troubadour here too) but it is about something more. It is the music of men who would be watching a band exactly like this, if they were not in one.
That’s why, surely, there is such a rich honesty about these 22 songs. Built around the idea that the guitar should drive rock n roll, it really doesn’t matter which of these songs you pick, because frankly you’ll find a gem. Right now, the absolute highlight is the divine Georgia Satellites flavour of “3 Weeks To Go”, next time you will find something like “Sea Pines” – which gets rock bonus points for starting with a guitar solo – and think, “yeah that’s the one.”
The point is here is the absolute quality that is here from start to finish. “Off The Hook” is so full of beans it might as well be made by Heinz, but then they find some country swagger as on the “Boston Wrangler” and on “All Wrapped Up” they are like the second coming of Dave Hause with their rootsy, blue collar acoustics.
Whichever style they manage, though, there is generally a hook and a killer chorus. “Backpack” for example is infused with a college radio feel, “All She Ever Wanted” is a two minute pop song if Springsteen made two minute pop songs, “Heavy Metal Weekend” has a kind of Drive By Truckers thing going on – only after they’d gorged on Fountains Of Wayne’s catalogue, mind you and “Star In My Dreams” proves that if they’d have fancied being a full on country pop band, then Dirty Truckers would have been just fine at it.
There are bands who come from nowhere to play big arenas – Royal Blood, for example – and some of those bands are superb (like Royal Blood, in fairness) but there are loads more for whom the music is the be all and end all. That is The Dirty Truckers. They’ve been doing this for 20 years and these are their Greatest Hits. In a word where there’s justice these would have gone gold long before this, mind you.