We have a blog series called, “Music Monday,” here on Arner Adventures. Since music creates a soundtrack for our day-to-day living, it only makes sense. “The New Ok” is the Drive-By Truckers’ second release of new material in 2020 and a collection of outtakes from the year’s first release, “The Unraveling.”
Whereas “The Unraveling” was a collection of politically focused songs, this set is much looser and musically diverse. The band’s songwriting is usually a combination of songs from Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. This go-around, it’s all Hood, with only one offering from Cooley. There are two new songs that are not leftover from the previous album’s outtakes.
The record starts strong with “The New Ok,” a song detailing the events of last summer, from Hood’s adopted new home of Portland, Oregon. He paints a bleak picture of the goings-on involving the riots and civil unrest. “The Unraveling,” obviously an outtake from the album of the same name, feels like an old Ramones song and showcases a bit more of the diverse talent of these seasoned musicians.
“The Perilous Night” continues with an upbeat rock feel, sticking to similar themes:
“dumb, white, and angry with their cups half-filled running over people down in Charlottesville.”
“Sea Island Lonely” showcases more of the band’s diversity. The song has a slower tempo with a blues/Motown feel, and funky Memphis horns, providing a nice foundation. A majority of these songs were recorded in Memphis. The guitar work of Mike Cooley and the organ playing of Jay Gonzalez stand out, as we’re seeing a group that has been at it for a long time, and whose talent has become very refined.
“Watching the Orange Clouds” comes full circle from the opening track. The singer is back home, off the streets of Portland, watching the orange glow of the fires from the street riots, and wondering how he is going to protect his sleeping kids, and explain to them that “the new ok,” is not ok.
“The KKK Took My Baby Away,” a Ramones cover they have been doing in their live sets, closes things out in spirited fashion. What a treat to get two solid albums from one of America’s best post-millennium rock bands. The Drive-By Truckers are truly an American treasure.