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2023/4 Albums Thing 251 - Drive-By Truckers “The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities And Rarities) 2003-2008”

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I have the best customers. One of them saw this in the sale at another shop, bought it and and said I know you like them so if you want it you can have it otherwise I’ll keep it. I had it from him.

“The Fine Print” is a compilation of previously unreleased recordings, cover versions and alternate takes. Most of these tracks were recorded during the sessions for “The Dirty South” and “Decoration Day”, my favourite period of Trucker-time when Jason Isbell was a member. For the first time a Truckers album includes cover versions, four of them. But in the main these are leftovers from a period when the Truckers had three and sometimes four songwriters contributing and with so much material being written, something was bound to get left behind.

The covers of Tom Petty’s “Rebels” and Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” are OK, perfunctory passes through two songs you’d expect these guys to like. The update of Tom T Hall’s Vietnam homecoming song "Mama Bake A Pie (Daddy Kill A Chicken)" to the Iraq era is fitting. Then there’s their go at Warren Zevon’s "Play It All Night Long" which is an answer song to to Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Sweet Home Alabama” which was in itself an answer song to Neil Young's "Southern Man". As you can imagine, it fits the Truckers like a well tailored silk suit, not that I can imagine Mike Cooley in a well tailored silk suit.

The first of the gems within is Jason Isbell’s “TVA” (that’s The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for those that don’t know, a federally owned electricity company created by Franklin D Roosevelt to bring jobs and power to Tennessee, parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and some areas of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. The TVA completely changed the economies and landscapes of those areas). It’s another languid Isbell story about life in the Southern backwoods that must have been real tough to leave off “The Dirty South” for which it was originally recorded.

That’s followed by another real beaut, and a song I’ve long liked, Mike Cooley’s tragic “Uncle Frank”. This had been previously released on the Truckers 2nd album “Pizza Deliverance” but this version was re-recorded at “The Dirty South” sessions and was meant to have been one side of a single with “TVA”, the two songs telling different sides of the same story about the TVA. This alternate version is a much livelier affair than the original recording and I like it a lot.

There’s another “alternate version” on here in a faster version of Patterson Hood’s “Goode’s Field Road” that was finally issued on “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” in a much more subdued setting. It seems this recording of the song almost made it onto “The Dirty South” but lost out to “Lookout Mountain” when it came down to final track listings. I much prefer this take to the “Brighter…” version.

Isbell’s “When The Well Runs Dry” would easily have fit on any of his solo albums. And then we are treated to DBT’s Xmas song, “Mrs Claus’ Kimono”, which is as warped as you can imagine it would be…who knew the Elves thought about Santa’s wife like that !!!

Rather than being a great album “The Fine Print” is a nice collection of waifs and strays from one of their most productive periods. Another one for the completists but it wouldn’t make a bad intro for a newbie.

Play It All Night Long -  https://youtu.be/4PZuuExyKxs?si=SEWgcdjfUREns06

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