july 2008

The Mother Truckers
Funzalo Records

Listeners are hereby forgiven for thinking, upon cueing up the Mother Truckers’ dangerous new album, Let’s All Go to Bed, that they must have fallen through a crack in time into a little studio on Union Avenue in Memphis, circa 1954. The appropriately titled album opener, “Dynamite,” kicks off with a steely, looping, echoey electric guitar solo that could easily have been fashioned by Scotty Moore back in the day, which is but a prelude to explosions ahead. Guitarist Josh Zee enters with an urgent wail and is soon joined in his celebration of white-hot lovin’ by the comely Teal Collins, who wails with unrestrained glee like Wanda Jackson gone haywire. By the time you work your way through the frenetic handclaps, the buoyant chanting chorus (“Dynamite! Dynamite!”) and a hailstorm of jolting Collins solos raining down on you with inexhaustible fury, you wonder, Where to from here? Well, where to is the Stones-like “Streets of Atlanta,” beholden as it is to “Honky Tonk Women” until it soars into its own high-altitude orbit on the strength of bluesy, swaggering harmonizing by Zee and Collins and the powerhouse pulse provided by drummer Dan Thompson and bassist Danny G. If the Truckers were out to prove something, they’ve already done it, only two tracks into their new long player—they’re coming at you with multiple barrels, fully loaded, showing no mercy. Their relentless assault continues through the hard driving honky tonk of “Never Miss My Baby,” the stomping, twang-rich country come-on, “I’m Comin’ Over,” and the harmony-rich punch of an ode to friendship, “Kaki’s Song,” before the quartet settles into a relatively reflective mode to explore the self-affirming beatitudes of Billy Joe Shaver’s “When I Get My Wings,” which inspires in Collins an emotional, soaring vocal that heightens the lyrics’ sentiments concerning conduct in the afterlife. But when the last three songs roll around, things change: the band ratchets down its full-bore attack in favor of a more acoustic-based soundscape better suited to compelling narratives examining meaningful human dramas—abiding, unconditional love in “I’ll Meet You There” (which begins with a lone, lightly strummed ukulele and later breaks into an old-timey boop-oop-a-doop strut), and most affectingly in “Soul’s Journey Home,” a folk-flavored reflection (spiced with Zee’s spare, twangy electric solos) bidding Godspeed to a departed friend, with Collins’s sweet vocal assuming a gospel feel as the song develops; and an album closing benediction, “Let’s Stay Outside,” only 1:14 in length, featuring Collins cooing in a laid-back manner to Zee’s simple banjo strumming, expressing her desire for the simple pleasure of whiling away the night under the stars with someone dear. From a rambunctious start to a temperate ending, Let’s All Go To Bed is a work of unflagging energy, unbridled soul and unalloyed conviction. What’s the old expression? It’s a mother? Exactly.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
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