If any band deserves a happy ending, it is the Drive-By Truckers. For those familiar with the band, it is clear that the spotlight that they currently enjoy has been hard won. And for those who’ve been introduced to the band’s depressed musical realities, there’s no denying that this group not only tells the tales, but bares them readily with every lick and every verse.
The Secret to a Happy Ending is proof-positive that the Drive-By Truckers’ time is here. A 20-plus-year musical relationship between Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley forms the core of the band, but just as its lineup began to congeal in the mid-2000s and the droplets of acclaim became a steady flow, the band’s many victories began to buckle under the weight of inter-personal relations. Most prominent was the divorce of bassist Shonna Tucker and guitarist Jason Isbell, and his subsequent release from the band. This is all here, blood-stained and hung out to dry, captured by film maker Barr Weismann who followed the band over three years.
The Secret to a Happy Ending wins with the candid interviews that explain the band’s staying power, including an interview with Hood’s mom who talks candidly while frying breakfast; a back porch discussion with Hood’s Dad, David; the story of George A, the subject of “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” as he sits holding Hood’s daughter; and the relaxed interviews with old friend and road manager Dick Cooper. So what is the secret? For the Drive-By Truckers, it is a commitment of two extremely talented songwriters, a network of believers that have dedicated their life to the cause of this band, and heaping helping of resilience, a complete unwillingness to fail in the face of rock and roll. When Mike Cooley is captured before the flamed fireplace delivering “Space City” from the group’s 2009 release A Blessing and a Curse, it all becomes clear. Rock and roll dreams do come true; they are rare, they aren’t easy, but they do happen.
The Secret to a Happy Ending is out now.