'There's no critic in America as nasty as those guys and that gal," says Patterson Hood, speaking of his bandmates in Drive-By Truckers. "The fact that we have been able to stay together so long, being that brutal with each other, is something to be proud of, I guess."
That "brutal" frankness has allowed the Truckers to be reliably excellent; few bands have been as prolific and as consistent since Hood and Mike Cooley joined forces 15 years ago in Athens, Ga. They're about to release their 11th album, Go-Go Boots, in February, and it's one of their best. They come to the TLA Saturday night.
Go-Go Boots is the culmination of an effort that began when the Truckers backed soul legends Bettye LaVette in 2007 and Booker T. Jones in 2009. While it contains some typical Truckers themes - conflicted stories of murder, disappointment, and redemption in an ongoing Southern rock opera - it doesn't rock as hard or as often.
"It's an oven, but it burns at a little different temperature than the record before it," Hood says from his home in Athens, comparing it with this year's The Big To-Do. "Go-Go Boots is an attempt at a type of record that I've always wanted to make, but I never felt like I was ready or the band was ready to take that step or make that plunge until this time. It's definitely more openly influenced by the R&B and soul music that we all grew up loving so much. It requires a little different discipline to play that style of music than it does to do a straightforward rock record."
With two covers from underrated soul great Eddie Hinton and two tellings of true-life small-town murder, the album contains some of the band's best writing and singing. But Hood hints that it might be the last one for a while.
"I love the shows. I love playing. But I get real tired - real tired - of being away from my family. The older we get and the more kids we all end up having, the bigger toll that end of it takes than it did when we were younger out living the dream," Hood says.
"I feel like we're definitely moving into a year that might be a little bit of a closing of a door on some things. Not to say that I'm going to be pulling the Cher farewell tour kind of thing. I'm going to be playing shows and making records as long as I am alive and physically able to. I can't imagine the day I wouldn't want to do that with Cooley and this band. But the constant treadmill of things, it may be time to address that."
For now, though, we can welcome the new year with the Truckers.
Any concerns that we'll get a show exhibiting the ill effects of New Year's Eve celebrating?
"No, no. And if you do, consider that an extra bonus point, because we play extra good hungover," Hood says with a laugh. "We record and play better hungover. That's kind of one of our inside jokes, that we've often played our best shows the night after a big show."