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Drive-By Truckers “Opera” Restaged

Band plans to tour through 2002, with new album due next year

After garnering a year’s worth of glowing reviews, the Drive-By
Truckers will re-release their two-CD rock opera, the appropriately
titled Southern Rock Opera, on Lost Highway on July 16th.
The new release will grant the sleeper album an opportunity for
coast-to-coast distribution.

Initially released last fall, Southern Rock Opera is
something of a time machine, dragging listeners back to the
Seventies through a pair of the decade’s flagship institutions:
Lynyrd Skynyrd and the rock opera. And despite the roar of the
three-guitar attack, the song cycle, separated from the music, is a
contemplative, thoroughly developed piece of modern southern
fiction. The double disc touches on the Skynyrd mystique, the
allure of arena rock (through a fictional Seventies teen and his
band) and, as singer-guitarist Patterson Hood describes it, “the
duality of the Southern Thing” — the semi-nostalgic love/hate
relationship between a man and a region.

“It’s been overwhelming to me,” Hood says of the attention the
album has garnered. “The whole time we were working on it, which
dates back six years, everybody told us we were crazy and it was a
stupid idea. We were told a thousand reasons why it wouldn’t work,
everybody from some friends all the way to anybody even slightly
connected to the music industry. But we’ve always gone against what
people thought was the smart thing to do.”

Despite accolades from the press, the self-financed recording
wasn’t finding its way into record stores. “It was really
frustrating not being able to get past the distribution,” Hood
says. “Our publicist did such an exceptional job, getting us into
Rolling Stone and all that, but no one could find the
record. In order to distribute it, with us financing all the cost
of manufacturing, we were gonna have to borrow, shit, another
$100,000.”

In addition to the new deal, the band has scored new management
and a booking agent. “I booked just about every damn show on our
fall tour by myself,” Hood says. “And our bassist, Earl Hicks,
found the investors and all that. So it’s kinda nice turning this
stuff over for a change. So we can concentrate on the
rock
.” And during the six years the band invested in

SRO, the Truckers have also nearly completed their next
album, Decoration Day, a reference to the day when the
fundamentalist church congregations gather to decorate the graves
of the departed. “We vowed after making the rock opera, that no
matter what, the next record was gonna be fun to make,” Hood says.
“The year that we actually made Rock Opera was pretty much
the worst year of our lives. We recorded it three separate times
and had two marriages and one long-term relationship break up
during the actual two weeks we spent recording the actual version
that came out. So we had all kinds of bad personal shit go down,
and it got to the point where the band was fighting and it was a
really miserable experience. The irony is it’s been really fun
since the record came out. Everybody’s proud of surviving the
miserable experience that making the record was.”

But as much of the material was written during the miserable
times surrounding Opera, Hood says the record won’t likely
reflect the glee with which it was made. “It isn’t a lighter record
by any means, because it was a record that was written during the
lousy times. It’s actually a significantly darker record than the
rock opera, but with this record we said if at any point in time we
weren’t having fun, we were going to walk away from it until we
were ready to come back with a better attitude. And it’s been a
blast.”

The band plans to tour relentlessly through the rest of this
year, before putting the finishing touches on Decoration
Day
, pegged for release in early 2003. “I don’t wanna jinx it
by being overly optimistic, but at the same time I’ve just been so
happy with the way things have been going lately,” Hood says. “And
the fact that Lost Highway did the O Brother thing and
have had success with it — that’s a project that I consider to
have the utmost integrity. It’s a good fit, and so many
synchronicities occurred in how this came together that I’ve
started thinking, well, maybe this is the way it’s supposed to
be.”

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