The Truckers have always seen the connections across what divides us, the bonds between the North and the South, the dirt poor and the filthy rich, and they have portrayed them without unwarranted mercy or nostalgia. They know the Mason-Dixon line is just a useful fiction -- no matter how deeply it's been burned into American life.
"The hip-hop folks call it 'country'," Isbell says. "I think most people have more experience of the South than meets the eye. We're more rural than Southern, and we translate just as well in Michigan or Pennsylvania or New York or St. Louis. There are a lot of rednecks up there. I think the willingness to understand something can help cross those lines, without it just being a novelty. People from here can be a bit leery, and rightly so. They want to know you're not making fun of them. It's not a joke to us. We wouldn't write these songs if we didn't mean them. And you don't have to draw a line between the funny and the poignant. 'The Living Bubba' may have a funny title, but it's not funny at all. I just think we're getting a little better at being assholes. We're more subtle about it."