On The Unraveling, the Drive-By Truckers have crafted an utterly unforgettable call-to-action for all who are fatigued by the current state of America. With vitriolic political discourse, a president sitting in the stain of impeachment and a seemingly never-ending rotation of senseless acts of gun violence, band co-founders and co-frontmen Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood have had enough, and it rings loud and clear on their latest record.
The Truckers know that these songs are going to spark debate and anger in some of their fans, but they seem to answer to a higher calling when it comes to what they’ve been tasked with creating. Though every track on The Unraveling is soaked in this kind of honesty and fearlessness -- the same kind of honesty and fearlessness that most have come to expect and love from Hood and Cooley -- these particular lyrical moments stand out as some of the finest in their three-decade career.
The Unraveling, which might be one of the most politically charged albums of 2020, is out Friday (Jan. 31) via ATO Records. Read on for five of its most powerful moments.
“They say his trouble with the ladies can’t be his fault / After all he’s what it’s natural they should want / That there’s just outside forces turning them against him / A conspiracy to water down his blood / A conspiracy to water down his blood / And it’s all the fault of it or them or they / Give a boy a target for his grievance / And he might get it in his head they need to pay”
Though Mike Cooley’s songwriting isn’t as prevalent on The Unraveling as on previous Drive-By Truckers albums, his contributions are felt more than ever before, especially on “Grievance Merchants,” a song that laments the cycle of gun violence in the United States. Cooley’s anger and frustration are all over the track, and every time these lyrics hit the speakers, it’s impossible not to join him in those feelings.
“21st Century USA”
“They say we have to hang on a little bit longer and a savior will come our way / We’ll know him by the neon sign and the opulence he maintains / If Amazon can deliver salvation, I’ll order it on my phone / With Big Brother watching me always, why must I always feel so alone?”
As Patterson Hood has said, “21st Century USA” helped break him out of his writer’s block as he and Cooley were writing the songs that would end up turning into The Unraveling. What will one day be an iconic song for all of America has elements that nearly every single listener can connect with, for good or bad. If only Amazon could deliver our salvation ...
“Babies in Cages”
“I’m sorry to my children / I’m sorry what they see / I’m sorry for the world that that they’ll inherent from me / Babies in cages”
No matter where you land on the political spectrum, Hood speaks with universal truth as he admits his struggle with trying to explain to his children what’s happening at the border. His apologies ring true as he admits the sorrow that overcomes him as he tries to reconcile seeing babies locked in cages with the inscription of Lady Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
“Thoughts and Prayers”
“They’re lined up on the playground, their hands all in the air / See it on our newsfeed and we cry out in despair / They’re counting up the casualties and everyone’s choosing sides / There’s always someone to blame / Never anywhere to hide”
A phrase that pops up more than once on The Unraveling, “thoughts and prayers,” is an obvious point of annoyance for both Hood and Cooley, so much so that Hood decided to dedicate an entire song to it. Once again, his political aim isn’t to merely highlight the political bleakness and hopelessness many Americans feel, but to open himself up in a vulnerable, authentic way, something he’s becoming more and more known for with each and every Truckers record.
“Guns and ammunition / Babies in a cage / They say nothing can be done / but they tell us how they prayed / In the end we’re just standing / Watching Greatness fade”
Sorrow. Frustration. Anger. Disappointment. And hope. All of these emotions run deep on The Unraveling, and Hood beautifully and vulnerably ties them all together on the album's closing track, “Awaiting Resurrection.” Though these words may convey a sense of hopelessness, the final words of the song are simply, “Into darkness ... awaiting resurrection.” There is no deeper hope than that found in the cosmic notion of resurrection, and the Truckers are clinging to it as they continue to wade into the darkness.