WFMU Home  |  Reach Us  |  Our Program Schedule  |  Hear Our Signal  |  LCD  |  Support Us

LCD's Jay House asks the question: Who will be singing trucking songs in the 21st Century?

Junior_Brown_&_Band Long_Haul_Booty_Call
Top: Junior Brown & Band.
Bottom: Long-haul Booty Call: tried-and-true topic of many trucker tunes.


Hunky, hot, handsome honky-tonk hearthrob Dale Watson en route to Utah with a load of stringbeans.


Breaker, breaker big mamas and daddy-os, this is Jay "Brick" House comin' at ya! If you have had your ear to the ground lately then maybe you've heard a big rumble lately; namely the resurgance in musical odes to America's concrete cowboy: the truck driver. In honor of the men and women who keep America moving, I'll be reviewing these records by some of the best unknowns and almost knowns in country music and rating them with a Trucker's scale of "Flat Tire" to "18 Wheels."

You trend-obsessed hipsters out there (you know who you are) may think that this celebration of trucking is end-of-the-millennium retro fever for the 1970's brief infatuation with trucking and the CB Radio (as exhibited in pop-culture moments like BJ and The Bear). But this interest in trucking music taps a much deeper nostalgia, which is the desire to recapture the authentic honky-tonk feeling of country music. Truckers represent a last source of the cowboy spirit that makes America, country music and trucking great. From where I stand (sit, actually), we really owe it to our sleep-deprived truckers to listen to the songs that honor them once in a while and to try to understand the things that matter to these folks who spend their lives on the road. In our super-high tech world, where you and I are probably as likely to cruise the information superhighway as we are to drive I-95, we still rely on our tireless truckers to keep life as we know it moving. Take this bumper sticker spotted last month on that super-slab called the New Jersey Turnpike: "When Truckers Stop, America Stops." Without these guys making their runs we would be in a sorry state, desperate for fresh veggies, new CDs and yesterday's paper. So here's to smooth roads, hot coffee and some great trucking tunes.

Rig Rock Deluxea compilation CD from Diesel Only Records features some of the cream of the crop from the ranks of classic country and so-called Americana or Crossing musical boundaries from country to rock and folk are some truly stand-out cuts, including a yodeling Don Walser doing an unusually rocking job on "Truck Driving Man." Buck Owens makes his return to recording for this first time after battling throat cancer in "Will There Be Big Rigs in Heaven?" (ya sound great, Buck!). We get treated to a superlative effort from Junior Brown and Red Simpson, "Nitro Express" about driving a big rig loaded up with explosives. Kelly Willis sings a steamy "Truckstop Girl" about another side of trucking - the Queen_of_the_Truckstop_circa1964women a trucker meets while out on a long haul. Son Volt's rendition of trucking classic, "Looking at the World Through a Windshield" is practically reason enough (IMHO) to pick up this disc. My personal favorite track is Kay Adams with BR5-49 on "Mama Was A Rock (Daddy Was A Rolling Stone)" about the woman behind her truck driving man. The ensemble finale, "Six Days On the Road" is a fun if slightly unsatisfying version that made me want more from the many artists featured, including Kim Richey, Rosie Flores and Dale Watson. The sheer talent captured on this album makes it as strong as hundred-mile coffee. The life of a touring musician is not so different from that of a truck driver, and the awesome variety of honky-tonkers and rock & rollers on this release are a testament to that road experience. In this case, we are the lucky beneficiaries. Also check out the trucking stories and glossary of lingo in the liner notes. For the variety of artists and the lessons contained within, I give Rig Rock Deluxe a big 17 out of 18 Wheels.

In their most recent release, The Trucking Sessions(Koch Records), Dale Watson and His Lone Stars display the depth of their respect for truckers everywhere with 14 tracks entirely devoted to trucking. This guy is a tremendous talent in honky-tonk who rips the tunes out of his Telecaster and sings in the richest baritone in country (maybe even all of pop) music today. The liner notes reveal that Dale's brother Larry is a trucker and a Dave ("Coffee Coffee, Coffee") Dudley fan who has made Dale particularly sensitive to the trucking life. Dale tells nearly every trucker's story on this album, like the blessing for the road on "Good Luck N' Good Truckin' Tonite" and his heartfelt ballad to the road, "Big Wheels Keep Rollin'," that asks why he stays away from home so long. The pissed-off trucker's lament, "Flat Tire tells of being waylaid with only a "cold cup of coffee and a stale bag of Frito's." "Exit 109" celebrates sex at a road stop with the local pavement princess (a.k.a. hooker), and "Have You Got It On?" features Dale (who, I must say, is pretty f**kin hot) flirting with a PYT in a four-wheeler via the CB Radio. Dale adapts the trucking theme to the traveling musician's story in the autobiographical song "Longhorn Suburban" about life on the road. There are more great tracks on this album, and I highly recommend you truck on out to your local CD megastore (unfortunately the little independents don't seem to carry these honky-tonk trucking tunes) and pick up a copy. On the trucking scale I give this one a whopping 18 Wheels!

Junior Brown is known for his novelty songs like, "Venom Wearing Denim," "Joe the Singing Janitor," and "Surf Medley," which features parts of surf classics like "Pipeline," "Walk Don't Run," and best of all, "Secret Agent Man!" These plus the title track make up some of the best of Semi-Crazy, Junior's 1996 release on Curb Records. Junior's near-virtuoso guitar work on his signature double-necked steel/rhythm guitar, which he calls the guit-steel, graces the album with some truly hot licks. "Semi-Crazy," is a rollicking vocal duet between Junior and Red Simpson. In it they wonder about the sanity of living a trucker's life, but can't deny the powerful hold it has. Red Simpson's gravelly voice really delivers on lines like "I been drivin' so long I got diesel in my blood and 90 weight oil on my brain." Accompanied by Junior on the guit-steel it's a fitting tribute to the trade. The cover art on this disc is especially fun as it features the band standing on the back of an old truck cab. But my favorite trucking moment comes at the end of the title track, a conversation between Junior and Red in genuine CB lingo. Keep on the look-out for Junior because his live act is hard to beat in New York City's overly techno-hyped and too cool for me scene. As much as I love Junior, this disc only rates a 12 of 18 wheels, simply because I wanted to hear more trucking tunes.

Maine's Diesel Doug and the Long Haul truckers' 1997 effort "An Angel Not A Saint" on Sad Bird Records opens with "Never Lookin' Down." This song reminisces about virginity lost in the back of the cab, while hauling paper from the mill in Westbrook, (possibly the stinkiest town in all of the Great State). It's hard to beat memories like those, even when they're not yours. The road theme is carried on in the plaintive sounding "Not Much To Say" where the road serves as a metaphor for the future. The last track on the album, "18 Wheels of Love" is a real country twanger that tells the familiar story of a truck-driving man who wants to get home to his cutie-pie to relieve "the tiger in his jeans." This album reeks like your local beer joint at about 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning in July, which is pleasant only for the dim memories of Saturday night. Singer Scott Link's flat singing voice makes it unlikely that Diesel Doug will get beyond bar band status, though if I happen to be riding through the Pine-Tree State, I might check them out at Gritty McDuff's, home to some of Portland's finest micro-brews. Despite the effort behind the music, plus the hot mama tattoo art on the cover, I give these guys a Flat Tire! Sorry Doug!

Sonny George's 1998 release Truckin' Countryon Spinout Records is destined to become a modern classic in the world of trucking music. Sonny takes on some themes not typically covered in your average macho gear jamming tunes, all the while making some joyful country-punkabilly noise. "The Ballad of Big Joe" which is probably the only song that celebrates that rare breed of cross-dressing drivers is the most unusual on the disc, and damn funny too. "The Ghostman Trucker" tells of a driver returned from the dead and features a great retro-guitar sound. The instrumental tune, "Jackknife," features a great punk-rock sensibility that got me just a little rowdy. "The Truck Stops Here" is a twist on the usual story, with Sonny singing the part of the spouse left at home waiting for his trucker-gal to put the hammer down and come on home to him. The last cut on the record, "Truckin' Country" is a love song dedicated to the genre and it's heroes, Dave Dudley, and C.W. McCall, among others. Sonny's album features some pretty goofy Adobe Photoshop art on the cover, along with vintage road maps and kudos to the American Trucking Association, the Tennessee Department of Highways and our beloved Brotherhood of Teamsters. If you want to hear the future of trucking music, this is it, a righteous album that I give 17 Big Wheels. Definitely check this one out for your next road trip.

Continuing with the punky-trucking feeling is the Cowslinger's That's Truckdrivin'a 1995 EP from Sympathy for the Record Industry. Opening this effort is "Queen of the Truck Stop" a trucker's homage to the waitresses who keep them nourished while on the road. "18 Wheels to Hell" has a Sex Pistols-esque sound and lots of screaming. Otherwise it's kinda hard to tell what's going on in this track. "One Cup of Coffee" is a rousing celebration of a couple of truckers' best friends on the road, coffee and cigarettes, with more of a rock sound than some of the others. The best track on this record is the Cowslinger's rockin' cover of "Truck Driving Man" the Terry Fell's 1954 classic. That's Truckdrivin'is fun listening, but somehow I don't' imagine our drivers rocking out to it and it really is too short for a long haul. If you find it in your local used record store, by all means pick it up, but unless you are a serious collector of trucking music you probably won't be missing much if you skip this one. I give this effort 12 out of 18 Wheels.

On a completely different trip from the rest is Gene Tracy, the truck stop comedian. I listened to a couple of his tapes, A Truck Stop is the Best Place To Eatand 69 Miles to Gene Tracyand while I respect the role that humor plays in keeping our drivers' spirits high, Gene really doesn't offer much you haven't heard before. Especially if you were in the Army or had a particularly goofy father, cuz Gene's material is pretty old. Did you hear the one about driver for Dixie Truck Line? How 'bout the Amazon called Hurricane Gussie? Well, even if you haven't heard these you've heard some like them if you've ever swapped jokes with Beavis's dad. Gene sprinkles his routine liberally with some of his favorite words, like "pussy", "titties" and "lesbian." Maybe I'm just a liberal, East-coast, feminist, snob, but after a while it gets tiresome, even if some of the jokes are funny. I imagine that on a long haul a Gene Tracy tape would provide some yuks for the guys, but I'll leave that to the truckers to enjoy and I recommend that you do the same. I do grudgingly give Gene Tracy 10 out of 18 Wheels, 'cuz, believe it or not, I found myself laughing too.

There's real talent out there spending time and energy to recognize the contributions of truck drivers to every day life in the good ole US of A. We couldn't get by with out them and its' damn near time we all took note of this fact. So the next time you've got your hammer down on the super slab, give your friendly trucker a wave, and maybe he'll blow the horn for you. Take note of the address on the driver's side door, and recognize, that man is a looong way from home and needs all the help he can get to make it through the night. So keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down! Over and out.

[ Top ]

WFMU Home  |  Reach Us  |  Our Program Schedule  |  Hear Our Signal  |  LCD  |  Support Us

© 2000 WFMU. All rights reserved.