The Drive-By Truckers never do anything by the book, so it was no surprise that with 2003's Decoration Day, the band's first release for New West Records, Patterson Hood and his mates (including Jason Isbell making his debut in the group) took another rewarding left turn. The album boasts a handful of crowd-pleasing, party-starting cuts, like the brash, cranky rocker "Hell No, I Ain't Happy" and the Stones ringer "Marry Me." Yet more common are moments of startling beauty (the steel solos on "The Deeper In" and "Loaded Gun in the Closet" and the jangling guitars, rolling melodies, and soulful fiddle breaks of "Heathens" and "My Sweet Annette") and heavy doses of recrimination and regret, as in the back-to-back suicide tunes "When the Pin Hits the Shell" and "Do It Yourself."
"Where Southern Rock Opera chronicles the duality of Southern culture, Decoration Day is more personal, delving into busted relationships, private tragedies, and the repercussions of life-changing decisions. Songs resonate because they are near to truth--most of the lyrics are based on first-hand observations and experiences. On several occasions, the Truckers open wounds with slowed-down tempos and high-and-lonesome tones, channeling loss, anxiety, and self-discovery as effectively acoustically as they do via Marshall stacks. Recorded live in just a few takes, Decoration Day crackles with intensity, originality, and honesty." - Bob Gendron, The Absolute Sound, August 2003