Ever since the American Music Series began, one act has been pretty much at the top of my subject wish-list: Drive-By Truckers, one of the greatest American rock bands going. I’ve been a major Truckers fan going all the way back to 2001’s Southern Rock Opera and they’ve become nothing but more important since then, emerging in recent years as a major progressive voice. It’s high time they were the subject of one of our books. And after a false start or two, I do believe we have the Drive-By Truckers book the world needs on the way.
The author is Stephen Deusner, a critic whose byline has appeared in Pitchfork, Stereogum, The Bluegrass Situation, Uncut and numerous other publications. He’s someone I’ve read and admired for years, and not just because he knows his way around Ryan Adams’ catalog. Based on the brilliant proposal he put together for “Heathens: Travels Through the New South with the Drive-By Truckers,” which traces the band’s history by mapping out many of the places where their songs take place, I think he’s just the writer to tackle the Truckers’ story.
Stephen was born and raised in McNary County, Tenn., a locale that serves as the setting for a number of Drive-By truckers songs — most notably 2010’s “The Wig He Made Her Wear,” a song based on a real-life story that happened literally next door to the house where he grew up. He’s also been writing about the Truckers for close to a decade and a half, starting with an 8.4 Pitchfork review of their 2004 masterpiece The Dirty South, in the process becoming fully immersed in their milieu as well as their music.
“I have my own complex personal history with the South,” he says. “I recognize the people who populate their songs, because they’re the people I grew up with, went to school with, attended church with. But I’m also an expatriate who has lived nearly half of my life outside the South, which has complicated my perspective on the place I still call home. I’m not one to romanticize it, and I work to look past the mythology of the South to see the very real place beyond.”
It’s very early in the process, so we don’t have a firm publication date just yet, but this is one I’m genuinely excited about. I can’t wait.