Wes Freed, the visual artist who was a master of Southern gothic imagery and who struck up a particularly long-lasting relationship as illustrator for Drive-By Truckers, has died at 58.
The “outsider artist” had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in January. Yesterday, the Athens, Georgia band, fronted by Patterson Hood, posted on social media: “I know word is out. I’ll be posting something when I can. Just too damned sad right now to articulate anything.”
Freed, who was himself a musician based in Richmond, Virginia, first worked with the band when he designed the striking cover for their third album, 2001’s Southern Rock Opera. He did the next seven Truckers albums in a row, and after a period in which they used photography for their cover art, they came back to him in recent times, including on 2020’s The New OK and the current set Welcome To Club XIII, released this past June.
In 2019, the artist published The Art of Wes Freed: Paintings, Posters, Pin-ups and Possums, a 160-page volume that gathered together much of his art. As well as covers for Drive-By Truckers, it included his work for the band Cracker and the singer-songwriter Lauren Hoffman.
As Freed told No Depression in 2019, he met Drive-By Truckers by chance at the annual roots music festival Bubbapalooza, at the Star Community Bar in Atlanta, in 1997. They became friends, as the band “crashed” at the idiosyncratic home of Freed and his then-wife, before they asked him to collaborate on the Southern Rock Opera double LP. Hood’s sister Lilia, herself a graphic designer, then worked with Freed to complete the album package.
“She vowed early on to be true to his work and never alter it, which cemented his trust,” said Hood in the No Depression article. “We’ve been working with him ever since.”