Erin Wolf

Drive-By Truckers

By - Feb 1st, 2008 02:52 pm
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A departed band member can make the advent of a new album nerve-wracking rather than exciting for an ardent fan, but the absence of Jason Isbell, Drive-By Truckers’ singer of seven years, brings out a return to roots, as well as new directions. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, the band’s eighth album, features contributions from band members who normally play the wallflower (bassist Shonna Tucker penned three shimmering beauties) paired with crunchier contributions from Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and John Neff, with ‘icing on the cake’ keyboards by legendary Spooner Oldham.

Southern rock had a glaring exterior when Lynyrd Skynyrd brought it to the mainstream, but today, one regularly hears the signature layered guitars, pedal steel, lazy drums and pretty keys channeling crusty stories of booze, drugs and hardships of alt-country on commercial radio. On Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, the Truckers juxtapose their personal brand of southern rock against established tradition. Their soft songs shine bright as the lights on a country wedding dance floor, while the gritty, raucous snarlers make the slow dancers shake their sleepy feet.

Stories paste this album’s nineteen songs together. Cooley’s country-washed songs add humor with “Lisa’s Birthday” and “Bob,” the tale of a man whose mom is the only one “she lets call him Robert” and who “has always had more dogs than he ever had friends.” Hood pens staunch southern rock with such vigor and drama it draws goose bumps. “The Man I Shot” is chilling, a strong contrast to Tucker’s gentle writing and Cooley’s ‘aw, shucks’ style. Hood’s slower ballads veer into Eagles territory at times, which can either please – in the case of the amazing “Daddy Needs a Drink,” made stellar by heart-wrenching pedal steel – or annoy, as on “The Home Front,” which is lite rock at best.

Brighter Than Creation’s Dark is an album to be traveled through, soaking in all the odd twists and turns, corners and dips. There are some bumpy spots, but the unexpected beauty will sink the listener like a stone, and the buoyant humor will lift the mood and ease the listener into reality, as the best stories often do.

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