In-depth Biography Drive-By Truckers released several albums of gutsy, often ironic roots rock (1998's Gangstabilly, 1999's Pizza Deliverance, and the live effort Alabama Ass Whuppin') before settling down to compose their unlikely magnum opus, The Southern Rock Opera, a two-act, two-CD work based loosely on the history of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, who met in college, started the group in 1996. The two initially played in a punk-inspired band called Adam's House Cat. Hood's father, David Hood, was a Muscle Shoals session player whose bass ended up on such well-known records as the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There." The vision for the rock opera took shape as Hood began to address his own Southern roots. Far from being solely about Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Southern Rock Opera is also a coming-of-age tale about a guitar-playing kid wrestling with his Southern upbringing. In the narrative, the youth moves north, takes up punk, and tries to shed his accent; but then, inevitably, he reconnects with his past through Southern rock. The project was recorded primarily live in Birmingham, AL, and boasts a three-guitar attack (à la Skynyrd) and a sound that swings from nervy, powerful rock & roll to a bruised, jagged tone that recalls Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
The underground success of Opera caught the ear of roots rock label Lost Highway, which reissued the album in 2002. Unfortunately for the label, many people who would have purchased the album already had a copy, and unfortunately for the band, they were released from their contract just as their first album for the label was finished being recorded. After only a few months of between-label limbo, the band was picked up by New West Records, which released Decoration Day in mid-2003. Touring and further lineup changes followed the album's release, with Shonna Tucker replacing bassist Earl Hicks, joining Hood, Cooley, drummer Brad Morgan, and guitarist/songwriter Jason Isbell, all of whom played on 2004's The Dirty South. In 2005 the group put out a DVD, =Live at the 40 Watt: August 27 & 28, 2004. A Blessing and a Curse followed in April 2006. 2008 saw the release of Brighter Than Creation's Dark on New West Records. ~ Erik Hage, All Music Guide