Visual artist Wes Freed, whose work has adorned Drive-By Truckers‘ albums for over 20 years, died on Sunday, September 4th at the age of 58 following a battle with colorectal cancer. In the wake of his death, his collaborators Drive-By Truckers and the band’s former member Jason Isbell honored the Richmond, VA-based artist and musician with respective tributes.
Freed first crossed paths with Drive-By Truckers 25 years ago when he invited the band to play his Capitol City Barn Dance, performing alongside Freed’s own group Dirt Ball. An art student of the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Freed first worked with the Truckers when he designed the cover of the band’s 2001 double LP, Southern Rock Opera. His most enduring creation for the band would be his work on the group’s 2003 follow-up, Decoration Day, featuring a long-necked, black-feathered bird that became a symbol for the band (and guitarist Mike Cooley) known as the “Cooleybird.”
“25 years ago today I met one of my best friends in the whole world,” Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood wrote on social media. “Actually way beyond that. Wes Freed and his late wife Jyl invited Drive-By Truckers to play their Capital City Barn Dance. We stayed at their haunted house outside of Richmond, and the rest is history. And so much more. Today we’re all grieving. I hope to write more about it when I can breathe again. Wes is flying with the Cooleybirds. We’ll love you forever.”
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At his show with The 400 Unit in Charlottesville, VA on Sunday, Isbell dedicated a performance of “Decoration Day” to his late friend.
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“He was one of the first people I met on the road on tour with the Drive-By Truckers, many many years ago, more than 20 years ago,” Isbell told the crowd at Ting Pavilion. “I slept on his couch with his dog. I loved him. He was a great man and a great artist and he painted the covers of all the Drive-By Truckers records. This is a song for him.”
Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit – “Decoration Day” – 9/4/22
Remembering Drive-By Truckers artist and Richmond musician Wes Freed