Live Review: Drive-By Truckers with Buffalo Nichols at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 11/13/21
Becoming a great American band is not an easy task. The Drive-By Truckers have been putting out quality music since their 1998 debut Gangstabilly. But it wasn’t until the Truckers’ singer-songwriter team of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley began infusing politics into their redneck rock that a more diverse audience sat up and took note. From that 2016 album American Band, “What It Means” describes the sobering account of Trayvon Martin being gunned down in Florida, the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and the general hate and ignorance which has overtaken America. Then, the one-two punch from 2020’s The Unraveling andThe New OK placed them in the pantheons of great American rock bands with a message.
The evening was loud and emotional, equal parts band and fans. The set list spanned the Truckers’ catalog with songs from 10 of their 13 studio albums. Cooley was up first with the opener “Slow Ride Argument,” a sharp rocker from The Unraveling. The band has toed the line between rock, Americana, country, and yes, punk. Their one-two punch of “Surrender Under Protest” and the Ramones cover “The KKK Took My Baby Away” is a prime example of this.
The Truckers are well known for the massive following of fans they’ve acquired over the past two decades – especially here in Georgia where Athens became their adopted home after leaving Alabama. With most songs on the set list becoming singalongs, the energy level was pushing 11.
Athens-based musician, producer, and friend of the band David Barbe joined in on guitar for the last few songs. Barbe has produced most of Drive-By Truckers’ albums and knows their music well. The closer was a wonderful rendition of “Angels and Fuselage,” off of 2001’s Southern Rock Opera. As the band’s following grows and their political positions become heard and known, expect to see much more of these guys in the future.
Opening act Buffalo Nichols brought raw exuberance to the Variety crowd with his Blues-inspired guitar work and smooth vocals. Carl “Buffalo” Nichols was born in Houston and raised in Milwaukee, where his fascination for the Blues grew. The first single from his self-titled debut album is “Lost and Lonesome,” a tune in search of a place to stay on his travels. As a Black American, Nichols doesn’t shy away from singing of race issues in our country. In “Another Man,” he sings, “When my grandpa was young, he had to hold his tongue / Cause they’d hang you from a bridge downtown, now they call it stand your ground / Another man is dead.”
For music and tour info, visit the Drive-By Truckers‘ website.
Categories: Live Reviews