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Southern rock Drive-By Truckers offer ‘a little bit of everything’

Shonna Tucker’s a Southern girl, a woman who can drink like a man, straight from the bottle, the main difference between the two being the flower in the former’s hair.

You can find her on YouTube, rubbing fried chicken on her bass strings.

“I really do that,” Tucker laughs. “I don’t change my strings anyway, but whenever I do, it’s because I break one, usually. A brand new string on a guitar that has 4-year-old strings on it sounds weird, and I read when I was a teenager that James Jamerson used to do this. So I tried it.”

It’s kind of silly, but it works, as Tucker notes.

She likes to keep things funky and gritty, making her a good fit for Southern rock hell-raisers the Drive-By Truckers, with whom she’s played for going on seven years now.

The band’s latest record, “Go-Go Boots,” may be the album most directly evocative of Tucker’s roots: the earthy, down home soul of Muscle Shoals, Ala., where she grew up.

This wasn’t done deliberately.

Not much the Truckers do ever really is.

When tracking their previous disc, 2010’s “The Big To-Do,” the group booked two weeks in the studio, an unusually large chunk of time for a band that prefers to record everything live in one or two takes.

They ended up cutting enough tunes for two albums, hence “Go-Go Boots” was born almost by accident.

It has a darker feel to it, at times, than its predecessor, with one of the album’s storylines revolving around a two-timing preacher who murders his wife with a fireplace poker.

It’s also one of the band’s more country-leaning efforts, with touches of banjo and a honky-tonk lilt to it, contrasting with the heightened R&B flourishes throughout the disc.

One of the best songs on “Go-Go Boots,” appropriately enough, is a cover tune, “Where’s Eddie,” from singer Eddie Hinton, a Muscle Shoals legend.

Tucker handles vocals on the number, which begins on a slow simmer, heavy with longing and regret, but by song’s end, it escalates into a full-bodied lament where it sounds as if Tucker was getting railroad spikes pounded in her heart.

The song’s a personal one for her.

It was co-penned by her friend, singer-songwriter Donnie Fritts, who was a collaborator with yet another storied Alabama tunesmith, Spooner Oldham.

Oldham’s daughter, Roxanne, was Tucker’s best friend in junior high.

“They led me to this whole different world, the Muscle Shoals thing, that I really didn’t even know too much about,” Tucker recalls of the Oldhams’ influence. “Being right there in my hometown, they don’t teach you that in school.”

By that time, Tucker was already a budding musician, even though she wasn’t even a teenager yet.

Her father already had started her down that bumpy, gravelly road.

“My daddy, he knew three or four chords on the guitar and he could play three or four songs, barely,” Tucker says. “He had this cheap little old guitar that he paid $10 for in Mexico when he was in the Navy that just leaned up in the corner. So there was always a guitar around. I was 8 years old when I asked him to show me what he knew on it.”

All these years later, “Go-Go Boots” seems indebted to that education, at least in places.

But like all Truckers’ records, it doesn’t sit still long enough for you to get much of a bead on it.

Throughout their 15-plus year career, the Truckers have barrelled down a lot of different, often winding roads, literally (they tour incessantly) and artistically speaking.

They’ve dropped two-disc concept albums (2001’s “Southern Rock Opera”), home-recorded, booze-fueled fireballs (1999’s “Pizza Deliverance”) and soundtracked lots of breakups and even more Saturday night parties.

There are a few constants — frontman Patterson Hood’s Southern Gothic character studies, enough drinking to turn livers to leather and raucous, marathon live shows.

As stellar as the band’s recording history has been, it’s onstage where the Truckers do the most damage — to rigid genre distinctions, to moderation, to themselves.

“Most nights we play for a good two, two and a half hours, and you get these deep, slow country tunes, you get those Hood, punk rock things, and you get whatever it is I do,” Tucker says. “If you stick around through the whole show, you’ll see a little bit of everything.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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