WELCOME 2 CLUB XIII
On the title track to Welcome 2 Club XIII, Drive-By Truckers pay homage to the Muscle Shoals honky-tonk where founding members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley got their start: a concrete-floored dive lit like a disco, with the nightly promise of penny beer and truly dubious cover bands. “There were no cool bars in town and Club XIII was the best we had—but it wasn’t all that good, and our band wasn’t particularly liked there,” says Hood, referring to the vocalist/guitarists’ former band Adam’s House Cat. “From time to time the owner would throw us a Wednesday night or let us open for a hair-metal band we were a terrible fit for, and everyone would hang out outside until we were done playing. It wasn’t very funny at the time, but it’s funny to us now.” The 14th studio album from Drive-By Truckers—whose lineup also includes keyboardist/guitarist Jay Gonzalez, bassist Matt Patton, and drummer Brad Morgan—Welcome 2 Club XIII looks back on their formative years with both deadpan pragmatism and profound tenderness, instilling each song with the kind of lived-in detail that invites bittersweet reminiscence of your own misspent youth.
Produced by longtime Drive-By Truckers collaborator David Barbe and mainly recorded at his studio in Athens, Georgia, Welcome 2 Club XIII took shape over the course of three frenetic days in summer 2021—a doubly extraordinary feat considering that the band had no prior intentions of making a new album. “We had some shows coming up and decided to get together and practice, since we hadn’t even seen each other in a year and a half because of the pandemic,” Hood recalls. “We started demoing song ideas, and pretty soon we realized we had a whole record. It was all sort of magical.” Featuring background vocals from the likes of Margo Price, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, and Mississippi-bred singer/songwriter Schaefer Llana, Welcome 2 Club XIII was recorded live with most songs cut in one or two takes, fully harnessing the band’s freewheeling energy. “For us it’s always about just getting together and having fun, but this time there was the added feeling of being set free after a long time of wondering if we’d ever get to do this again,” notes Cooley.
Arriving as the band enters its 26th year, Welcome 2 Club XIII marks a sharp departure from the trenchant commentary of The Unraveling and The New OK (both released in 2020). “All our records are political to some extent, but after making three overtly political records in a row we wanted to do something much more personal,” says Hood. A hypnotic introduction to the album’s sprawling autobiography, “The Driver” kicks off Welcome 2 Club XIII with a seven-minute-long, darkly thrilling epic punctuated with lead-heavy riffs and Llana’s unearthly vocals. “Around the same era of Club XIII, I spent a lot of time driving around late at night when I couldn’t sleep, listening to music loud and often having a beer or two,” says Hood. “Sometimes during those drives I’d have these epiphanies about what to do with my life—like listening to Tim by The Replacements not long after it came out and deciding to drop out of school to try and make this whole band thing work.”
The album’s swinging centerpiece, “Welcome 2 Club XIII” spins a sublimely gritty portrait of the spot Cooley sums up as “part disco, part honky-tonk, part place to score cheap cocaine.” With its litany of inside jokes and references to Foghat and The Jim Carroll Band, the track unfolds as a joyful piece of anti-nostalgia, a sentiment perfectly captured in its sing-along-fueled outro (sample lyric: “Our glory days did kinda suck”). Meanwhile, on “Every Single Storied Flameout,” Cooley shares a far more pensive recollection of his younger years. “I wrote that song when my son was turning 16 and going through a rough patch for a bit,” he says. “Luckily, he’s turned it around and he’s doing great now, but it was a tough time for a while. Part of my way of dealing with it was to take ownership of the example I might’ve set, in the hope of leading him out of it.” Graced with the radiant melodies of a three-piece horn section, the result is a spirited anthem merging Cooley’s unsparing self-reflection with a bit of rambling wisdom (e.g., “That part of you that feels alive is wired and can’t be severed from the damage-seeking part of you that runs it/Just don’t embrace it with a vengeance before you’ve even shaved with a razor that you bought with your own money”).
Although Welcome 2 Club XIII has its moments of real-time observation (including “Maria’s Awful Disclosures,” on which Cooley connects the dots between early-19th-century anti-immigrant agitprop and the noxious paranoia of QAnon), much of the album serves as a free-flowing coming-of-age memoir. “Cooley and I have been playing together for 37 years now,” Hood points out. “That first band might have failed miserably on a commercial level, but I’m really proud of what we did back then. It had a lot to do with who we ended up becoming.” And while Drive-By Truckers never shy away from illuminating the many shades of grief that come with getting older, Welcome 2 Club XIII ultimately embodies a certain world-weary joie de vivre—an element beautifully encapsulated in one of its final lyrics, from the softly stunning “Wilder Days”: “As the sun gets dizzy watching us as we go spinning around/I find it best to laugh at the absurdity of life above the ground/There’s no comfort in survival, but it’s still the best option that I’ve found.”
MARGO CILKER is a woman who drinks deeply of life, and her debut record Pohorylle, released in November 2021 on Portland label Fluff and Gravy, is brimming with it. For the last seven years, the Eastern Oregon songwriter, who NPR calls one of “11 Oregon Artists to Watch in 2021,” has split her time between the road and various outposts across the world, from Enterprise, OR to the Basque Country of Spain, forging a path that is at once deeply rooted and ever-changing.
As Pohorylle traverses through the geography of Cilker’s memories—a touring musician’s tapestry of dive bars and breathtaking natural beauty—love is apparent, as is its inevitable partner: loss. For what bigger heartbreak is there than to be a fervent lover who must always keep moving? Cilker seems keenly aware of the precarious footing upon which love stands, and at many turns, the record circles something that is staggeringly beautiful and slipping away.
“I am a woman split between places,” Cilker sings on the album’s wistful closer, touching for a brief moment upon the vast dichotomies of her selfhood and her profession, and the negotiation that she conducts between them.
“I’m just very inquisitive. I’m a very curious person. Why are things this way? Do they have to stay this way? You know, how can things change?” Cilker asks. It is this part of her nature that expands Pohorylle into the complex journey that it is: her ability to crack open a moment of desperation and lay it out on a table to catch a careful light.
Pohorylle, which carries gentle nods to Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and Gillian Welch, shines under the instincts of producer Sera Cahoone, whom Cilker first came across in 2019 while planning her first full-length. “I was trying to pin down what kind of sound I wanted and stumbled across a video of Sera and just loved how she performed. I then listened to her last studio record and thought, that’s the sound.” Cilker says. “I found out Sera had produced that record herself with John Askew. My friend put me in touch with her and she liked my demos enough to produce the album. It felt very auspicious—It was truly just a gut feeling.”
Cahoone quickly got to work assembling a first-rate band: Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists) on keys, Jason Kardong (Sera Cahoone, Son Volt) on pedal steel, Rebecca Young (Lindsey Fuller, Jesse Sykes) on bass, Mirabai Peart (Joanna Newsom) on strings, Kelly Pratt (Beirut) on horns, and the album’s engineer John Morgan Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson) on an array of other instruments. The record also prominently features effortless harmonies from Sarah Cilker, Margo Cilker’s sister and frequent touring partner.
Over the last six years, Margo Cilker has toured extensively across the US and internationally, and is a staple in the independent festival circuit.
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS WITH SPECIAL GUEST MARGO CILKER
THURSDAY, MARCH 9, 2023
THE VOGUE THEATRE
TICKETS AT THEVOGUE.COM
THIS SHOW IS GENERAL ADMISSION AND SEATING IS NOT PROVIDED. YOU MUST BE 21+ TO ENTER THE VENUE WITH A VALID FORM OF IDENTIFICATION. ALL TICKETS ARE NON-TRANSFERABLE AND NON-REFUNDABLE. TWO FORMS OF IDENTIFICATION MAY BE REQUIRED FOR ENTRY.