To Kid Rock, a live album is about more than just slapping together a bunch of concert tracks.
"I haven't heard a credible live album in years -- good players, good performances, good songs," notes the man you know as the American Bad Ass, the Devil Without a Cause and -- if you're REALLY down with the devil -- the Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp. "It's got to be something that takes you a different place than the original songs that you really liked.
"I'm not convinced there's a lot of people out there who can put one out."
Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band can. Their concerts are some of the best parties on two legs -- and they throw down so hard they're more than likely to put you flat on your ass by the time they're done.
That magic is captured on LIVE TRUCKER, 13 tracks of Rock recorded between 2000-2004 at various venues in and around his native Detroit, putting this set in a seminal lineage that includes the MC5's KICK OUT THE JAMS, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band's LIVE BULLET and KISS ALIVE! The flavor is captured on tracks liked "Cowboy," with its mid-song segue into the DUKES OF HAZZARD theme song, in the medley of "Gotta Feel This" and "Fist of Rage," in the tight groove of a sound-check rendering of the Gap Band's "Outstanding" and in stomping renditions of "Bawitdaba," "Son of Detroit," "Rock N' Roll Pain Train" and "Cocky."
LIVE TRUCKER also preserves performances by former Twisted Brown Trucker members Uncle Kracker and the late Joe C, while country star Gretchen Wilson is the duet partner of choice for "Picture" -- recorded in March of 2004 at Detroit's Cobo Arena, before the release of her debut album.
"We're a live band," Rock says. "That's how we've done everything and gotten everything. We've gone out and proven ourselves on the road, so it would make sense we'd put out a live record."
And yet, he cautions, "It's not a live show. These are live performances taken from the last few years."
With that in mind, we asked Mr. Badass -- or, if you prefer, Mr. Stoned Pimp -- to give us a track-by-track tour through the LIVE TRUCKER terrain:
Son of Detroit: That's what started the last (2004) tour, pretty much. I've always just tried to not only say I'm proud of where I'm from but also try to let everyone know they should be proud of where they're from, too.
Bawitdaba: That's the arena anthem. What more is there to say at this point?
Cowboy: "Cowboy" I think kind of defines me because nobody can cover it. You can't go to a bar and hear a band playing that song. I haven't seen anybody with the skills that can pick the guitar and do the raps and sing the harmonies and formulate that whole thing. I think that kind of sums up everything about me.
Devil Without a Cause: We definitely wanted to have something with Joe C. It was important to dig out an old version with him. It's kind of interesting and sad at the same time; he passed away not too long after that, and you can kind of hear his shortness of breath there. It's bittersweet because you know he's out there rocking and entertaining and giving so many people a great time, but when you listen back to it now knowing more about the situation, it's a little sad.
Somebody's Gotta Feel This/Fist of Rage: That's a medley we do that we put together years ago that's just worked really well. It flows seamlessly. One of the things I think I do best live is that I take from being a DJ and a musician is I can mix things together, and it's not just BPMs of music and knowing what's going to fit. You also have to know the key changes and everything else.
Picture: I met Gretchen at a party in Nashville and she grabbed my attention. She said that she name-checked me in a song called "Redneck Woman." Later on she played the song and as soon as I heard it I was completely floored. We became friends and I thought her singing was incredible, so I invited her up to Detroit to sing "Picture" with me, before anyone knew who she was, and lo and behold, there she is, probably the biggest thing in country music now.
American Bad Ass: To be able to play Metallica every night and rhyme over it brings back a lot of good memories of touring with them. And then the whole American side of it, so many things have been associated with the song, like when it was played on the USS Cole and us playing it in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Germany and all over the world for our troops is really something special.
Rock N' Roll Pain Train: I think it's just the same old road story that's been told, just kind of about the come-up and trying to be careful of the rock 'n' roll pain train. Sometimes you have to slow it down and hop off for a minute, 'cause it will run out of control -- as we've seen so many times.
Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp: That's one of my favorite cuts on the record, just to really throw some old stuff on there. It's always a lot of fun to do live, too. I'm sure it gets perceived a lot of different ways when I dress up and go over the top with pyro and stuff. I'm sure a lot of people think it's corny, and a lot of people like it. It doesn't matter to me; it's always been fun to do that every couple of tours and just thrown on a pimp suit and have fun.
Motherf**ker Quite Like Me: I gotta say that's one of our strongest songs live. It's just powerful, and people love it. That's the biggest-selling T-shirt on the road the last two years. And it's got a great ode to Ronnie Van Zant and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who are obviously huge musical heroes of mine, in the middle of it.
Cocky: That was just a fun song to write. On DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE I said "I'm goin' platinum" -- and I did. All the things that I said on DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE, 100 percent of them came through and even surpassed my cockiness. I've always been really good at writing over-the-top shit, and to be able to actually write a song and haveshit was such a kick in the ass, it's hilarious.
Only God Knows Why: It's very deep. I've sung it at funerals, from Joe C's to other people. I've had people associate it with a lot of hard times in their lives. It takes on another life of its own at that point, 'cause I know how much it means after touring and talking to so many people around the world.
Outstanding: That was the Twisted Brown Trucker Band and myself after a long, long night, sitting around the dressing room. I said, "You know what? We really need to sharpen our sword so we can play some really good, credible, R&B stuff. We need to sharpen that end of the stick." So I started thinking about the Gap Band, "Outstanding," and that is one song that I know you could drop anywhere and it's gonna go off. So we learned that song, listened to it about four or five times, went out for sound check and I think that was the third take or something, directly to a two-track. There's no manipulation on it at all. That's exactly how we played it.