From The Desk Of Drive-By Truckers: Gospel Music

After fighting writer’s block for four years, Drive-By Truckers singer/guitarist Mike Cooley is now back to work. English Oceans (ATO) is Cooley’s return to full-on songwriting—splitting the tracklist right down the middle after letting bandmate Patterson Hood steer the ship for the two albums prior—and is a return to form for the group as a whole. While DBT has never been a band to slack on the road or in the studio, English Oceans has the vigor and exuberance that made it one of America’s best rock groups. Cooley, Hood, bassist Matt Patton and multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Drive-By Truckers feature.
Patton: I learned to play bass while growing up in the rural South. The best opportunity I found was to play with the church bands wherever we happened to be attending. Church attendance was mandatory in my household. It didn’t always seems like the cool thing to be doing at the time. But, I had three guaranteed gigs each week. My friends would start cover bands that would be hard pressed to find work anywhere in our small town before they gave up. The first time I played a bass it was in front of the people at our church. I’ll always be grateful for the experience.

I recently had the extreme pleasure to work with Leo “Bud” Welch on a record of Hill Country Gospel songs called Sabougla Voices. Leo is 81 years old and a native of Bruce, Miss. Sabougla Voices is the first record he has ever made. He has hosted a local public access television show called Black Gospel for decades. Thankfully, Mr. Welch came to the attention of Bruce Watson who produced and released the record on his Big Legal Mess label. Bruce also produced numerous records for Fat Possum Records including titles by R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford.

I’ve been reading a book entitled I Got Two Wings by Lynn Abbott. The book tells the story of Elder Utah Smith, a traveling tent revival evangelist and guitarist from Louisiana who worked more that four decades starting sometime in the 1930’s. Elder Smith was known for not only being highly charismatic, but also for his sense of humor and theatrics. By the mid 1940s, he was playing guitars through amplification at ear-splitting volumes. At times he also wore a hand fashioned set of wings on his back. The book comes with a CD collection of live recordings that would be cost prohibitive if you could possibly find them all on their original format. It’s available from CaseQuarter Books.