Event #24: "Songs About Places" 25 Jul 2018 • Host: Russell Young

Drive-by Truckers – Dirty South (2004)

This month’s event was in the middle of a UK heatwave, although luckily for OTR, our room is air-conditioned. Appropriately, we were listening to an album by a band from one of the hotter parts of the USA: Drive-By Truckers are an alt. country / Southern rock band from Athens, Georgia, famous for recording in analogue and constantly touring. Their fifth album, “Dirty South” is a concept album “examining the state of the South, and unveiling the hypocrisy, irony and tragedy that continues to exist”.

This album is all about places and characters around the southern United States, so our theme “Songs About Places” wass pretty straightforward. It was chosen by Off The Record regular Russell Young who was excited to share a band he adores with the OTR crew – he nominated their 2013 show at the 40 Watt Club as his “second favourite show of all time”(!).

Russell gave an intro to the album and talked about the different songwriters (helpfully marked out per-song on our lyric sheet) and their different styles, and pointed out a few things to listen for. Our talking points (provided by Russell) were:

  • The band has three songwriters (and guitarists). How do you think this affects the album?
  • Do you have a favourite among the songwriters and if so why?
  • Do you think the music adds to the feel of the songs being about the Dirty South?
  • The Boys from Alabama, Cottonseed, The Buford Stick and Never Gonna Change are all about the same subject.  Do you think this works or is it too much on one album?

Russell also throughtfully prepared some background music for the evening, which you can check out here.

The album was the longest we’ve ever done, clocking in at over 70 minutes. We took a break at the point where the second LP began (eg. after track 7, “Danko/Manuel”). Even with the break, the album didn’t feel overly long or slow – the storytelling and songwriting kept things moving and engaging.

Reception by the group was generally good: people talked about the backward-looking stories (“reminiscent”, “heritage”, “storytelling”), plus some of the challenges and rough circumstances discussed in the songs (“struggle”, “tough”, “damaged”). Russell told an emotive story about seeing the band play a live set days after their merchandise colleague died, and the experience of seeing the band deal with this through their music. We spent some time talking about the historical figures mentioned in the songs and the interplay between fact/fiction in music.

Overall the group scored it 7.1 / 10 with only one person rating it below a 6 (a 4/10; it was a “shambles”), and the best word chosen to describe the album was “transportative”. It was then over to the group to share songs matching our theme of “Songs About Places” – Here’s the songs they chose:

  • Steph: The Eccentronic Research Council - “Welcome to Valhalla Dale”
  • William: The Photos - “Barbarellas”
  • David: Protest The Hero - “Mist”
  • Lewis: Therapy? - “Six Mile Water”
  • Martin: The KLF - “It’s Grim Up North”
  • Steve: Elton John - “Grimsby”
  • James: Donny Benét - “Santorini”
  • Matt: Minutemen - “Viet Nam”

  • Martin’s song wasn’t on Spotify but you can listen to it on Youtube above!

After this, it was the end of the night – thanks to everyone for coming out and Russell for a great job hosting.

Spotify playlist of songs

See above to see who nominated each song which matched our theme, "Songs About Places".