At the start of 2020, alt-country rockers Drive-By Truckers had a new record out, The Unraveling (QRO review), and were ready to tour the country & beyond. Then COVID hit, everything shut down, and all tours were cancelled. So, the band headed back into the studio, combined some material from The Unraveling sessions with new stuff, and put out their surprise second 2020 album, the very timely The New OK.
The swiftness of the new release, plus having a lot of political material, does give The New OK the whiff of an extras record, nicely here today but maybe not as strongly remembered tomorrow. Still, there is power to songs such as the sadly wry title track and the rockin’ “The Unraveling” (yes, the title track from the prior record is on this one). “Sea Island Lonely” has a seventies, Joel/Newman wry relax, while “Watching the Orange Clouds” has a moving wistfulness. And it all ends with a great cover of The Ramones classic (that’s unfortunately timely again), “The KKK Took My Baby Away”.
If the pandemic hadn’t struck, The New OK likely wouldn’t have been made, just a few b-sides and a live cover. But if we’re all gonna be stuck at home, hoping for a brighter 2021, we can definitely use more Drive-By Truckers.