A Trailer Park Wedding and a C.B. Opera
“The High Seas” and
Drive By Truckers
“Southern Rock Opera”
2002 was an excellent year for white trash music.
Trailer Bride’s eerie ghost-country disc, “The High Seas,” alone would float all boats. Melissa Swingle, mastermind of the group, has finally come into her own as a songwriter. Trailer Bride’s earlier efforts were good, but this one is great. Swingle not only writes the songs, and sings them beautifully, but she also plays the guitar, the banjo, the piano, and the saw! The last of these she makes moan and whortle in a dirge-like way that seems to rise from deep inside a lost hollar in West Virginia. If you only heard her play the saw, you would think Swingle was the ghost of some long lost member of the Carter family. But she, and the rest of the Bride, are equally animated by a certain hipster swing. The combination is stunning: David Lynch doing country.
The Drive By Truckers’ epic “Southern Rock Opera” is likewise a tremendous achievement; it may be less beautiful but it is equally haunting. This double disc tells the mythical story of a Skynyrd-like band, with all of the force of three Alabaman guitars from the 1970s. Along the way, the Truckers discuss issues such as the relationship between Ronnie Van Sandt and Neil Young; the legacy of George Wallace (whom we meet in hellwatch out Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott); and the ways in which we relate to the music blasting from the cars in our high school parking lots, moving away, far away, but then, perhaps, coming back. This disc is not simply an exercise in irony, however. It is earnest and sincere in its embrace of the southern rock sound. But it’s still cool.
If you listen to either or both of these discs, you should be prepared to cry a tear or two (both contain some weepers) before you raise a bunch of hell. BW