Southern Rock Opera is the third studio album by the alt country band Drive-By Truckers, released in 2001. A double album covering an ambitious range of subject matter from the politics of race to 1970s stadium rock, Southern Rock Opera either imagines, or filters, every topic through the context of legendary Southern band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The record was originally self-released on Soul Dump Records. The album was re-released on July 16, 2002 by Lost Highway Records. The album was financed by issuing promissory notes in exchange for loans from fans, family and friends of the band.Southern Rock Opera is the third studio album by the alt country band Drive-By Truckers, released in 2001. A double album covering an ambitious range of subject matter from the politics of race to 1970s stadium rock, Southern Rock Opera either imagines, or filters, every topic through the context of legendary Southern band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The record was originally self-released on Soul Dump Records. The album was re-released on July 16, 2002 by Lost Highway Records. The album was financed by issuing promissory notes in exchange for loans from fans, family and friends of the band.
The idea for Southern Rock Opera pre-dates the band’s formation in 1996. Southern Rock Opera began in a long discussion between Drive-By Truckers’ frontman Patterson Hood and former Truckers bassist and producer Earl Hicks, during a road trip. The pair discussed writing a semi-autobiographical screenplay about growing up in the South and about the plane crash that almost ended the career of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, taking singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and Gaines’ back-up-singer sister Cassie Gaines.
Soon after this discussion, Hood formed Drive-By Truckers. The Truckers recorded two studio albums and one live album during the four years between their formation and the actual recording of Southern Rock Opera. During these years, Drive-By’s principal songwriters Hood, Mike Cooley, and Rob Malone continued to contribute songs to “The Rock Opera”, as they had come to call it.
After the release of their live album Alabama Ass Whuppin’, Drive-By Truckers began recording what they hoped would be their magnum opus: Southern Rock Opera. According to Patterson Hood, “(the album) was recorded in Birmingham, upstairs in a uniform shop during an early September heat wave, with no air-conditioning. We had to turn the fans off when we were recording, and we worked from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. So Southern Rock Opera was fun to write, but we had a miserable time making it.”
After the album was finished, however, the troubles continued for The Truckers when they ran out of funding for the immense project. To resolve the problem, and to avoid “any fine print crap”, as Hood put it, the band took a non-traditional approach. The Truckers made a prospectus and solicited investors, with a promise of 15% interest, to pay for the manufacturing and distribution of Southern Rock Opera. The approach worked. Through their fan-based online news group and by sheer word of mouth, The Truckers were able to raise $23,000. This allowed them to print about 5,000 copies of the album, and buy a “new” used van for touring. Notably included in the group, dubbed “The DBT Investors”, was Widespread Panic bassist and fellow Athenian Dave Schools.
Southern Rock Opera was finally released on September 12, 2001 on Soul Dump Records.
The critical praise for Southern Rock Opera created no shortage of buzz around the album and the band. The Truckers didn’t have the means to press the necessary amount of copies of the album on their own.
In order to meet demand, Drive-By Truckers signed a large-scale distribution deal with Lost Highway Records. Southern Rock Opera was re-released, this time worldwide, on July 16, 2002. (by wikipedia)
Don’t be deterred by the rather misleading title. Not a rock opera in the sense of Tommy or Jesus Christ Superstar, this sprawling double disc is more akin to a song cycle about Southern rock, in particular Lynyrd Skynyrd. Almost six years in the making, the Drive-By Truckers have created a startlingly intelligent work that proudly stands with the best music of their obvious inspiration. Largely written and conceived by lead trucker Patterson Hood (son of famed Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood), who sings the majority of the songs in a torn, ragged, but emotionally charged twangy voice somewhere between Tom Petty and Rod Stewart, these 20 literate tracks encapsulate a remarkably objective look at what Hood calls “the duality of the South.” Rocking with a lean hardness, the story unfolds over 90 minutes, but the savvy lyrical observations never overburden the songs’ clenched grip.
While bands like the similarly styled Bottle Rockets have worked this territory before, never has a group created an opus that’s thematically tied to this genre while objectively exploring its conceptual limitations. The two discs are divided into Acts I and II; the first sets the stage by exploring aspects of an unnamed Southern teen’s background growing up as a music fan in an environment where sports stars, not rock stars, were idolized. The second follows him as he joins his Skynyrd-styled dream band, tours the world, and eventually crashes to his death in the same sort of airplane accident that claimed his heroes. The Drive-By Truckers proudly charge through these songs with their three guitars, grinding and soloing with a swampy intensity recalling a grittier, less commercially viable early version of Skynyrd. A potentially dodgy concept that’s redeemed by magnificent songwriting, passionate singing, and ruggedly confident but far from over-the-top playing, Southern Rock Opera should be required listening not only for fans of the genre, but anyone interested in the history of ’70s rock, or even the history of the South in that decade. More the story of Hood than Skynyrd, this is thought-provoking music that also slashes, burns, and kicks out the jams. Its narrative comes to life through these songs of alienation, excess, and, ultimately, salvation, as seen through the eyes of someone who lived and understands it better than most. (by Hal Horowitz)
In other words: A masterpiece !
Mike Cooley (guitar, vocals)
Earl Hicks (bass)
Patterson Hood (guitar, vocals)
Rob Malone (guitar, vocals)
Brad Morgan (drums)
Kelly Hogan – Anne Richmond Boston – Jyl Freed – Amy Pike
01. Days Of Graduation (Hood) 2.37
02. Ronnie And Neil (Hood) 4.53
03. 72 (This Highway’s Mean) (Cooley) 5.26
04. Dead, Drunk, and Naked (Hood) 4.51
05. Guitar Man Upstairs (Cooley) 3.17
06. Birmingham (Hood) 5.03
07. The Southern Thing (Hood) 5.00
08. The Three Great Alabama Icons (Hood) 6.51
09. Wallace (Hood) 3.27
10. Zip City (Cooley) 5.17
11. Moved (Malone) 4.17
12. Let There Be Rock (Hood) 4.18
13. Road Cases (Hood) 2.43
14. Women Without Whiskey (Cooley) 4.20
15. Plastic Flowers On The Highway (Hood) 5.05
16. Cassie’s Brother (Malone) 4.58
17. Life In The Factory (Hood) 5.28
18. Shut Up And Get On The Plane (Cooley) 3.38
19. Greenville To Baton Rouge (Hood) 4.12
20. Angels And Fuselage (Hood) 8.00