album review::Drive By Truckers:Brighter Than Creation’s Dark

There is an interesting phenomenon concerning the Drive-By Truckers, in that while their albums always get good reviews, the things the critics say about them imply they don’t really listen to the band. Maybe it is in the persistent outdated Lynyrd Skynyrd references, which really have no reflection on DBT’s music anyway. Yes, there was Southern Rock Opera, but what year is this now? Even still, I never thought Drive-By Truckers were trying to be the second coming of Skynyrd, but somehow this is a catch phrase nailed on them by some of the more “credible” modern institutions of music commentary who get to do the branding, and decide what is good and what is not. I guess still, it is better to be labeled “loved,” than “hated.”

This is a double album, and unfortunately I didn’t get the 180 gram vinyl version, but instead received Brighter Than Creation’s Dark on a single cd. So, I must concede that the double album effect is a little lost on me in this format, but still the songs appear in full splendor. Upon first run thru, there are some noticeable attributes of this record. One is the prominence of Cooley numbers, which is a major plus, especially for the fans that stand near the front right of the stage. Shonna has her coming out party, taking the mic for a few numbers of her own, with my favorite being “I’m Sorry Huston.” Finally, it becomes clear that the departure of one of their former prime contributors earlier this year has done nothing, but make them perhaps more focused. Of course, anyone who saw DBT on The Dirt Underneath tour, knew already they were just fine, and besides they picked up a legend in Spooner Oldham early in the off season.

A tale of murder, “Two Daughters And A Beautiful Wife,” sets the tone of the album with a spacious sound, filled with acoustic guitars and a beautiful pedal steel, which plays a prominent role throughout the record, in making the band sound as good as they ever have. Next, comes the first of many Mike Cooley numbers, “3 Dimes Down,” a gritty rocker that in more than one way, sounds like the nephew of a great Bob Segar tune. He adds a couple of more rockers, with the best being the mid-tempo melter, “Self Destructive Zones,” which includes some great lyrics. Speaking of Cooley, many of his songs hearken back to a time when we didn’t have distracting terms like “americana,” “alt-country,” or whatever, and simply had a good idea what a person meant when they said “country.” This is exemplified many times over on the album, specifically on tunes such as the acoustic mover “Perfect Timing,” whose smooth flowing vocal lines and simple acoustic guitar break, do much to give the song an organic feel. “Bob” is another laid back Cooley tune, with a similar mood, only this one telling the tale of a remote character and the perils of contentious women, leaving the question as to whether “Bob” is simply some social oddity, or one of the last true mavericks. “Checkout Time In Vegas” seems like it should be the companion piece to “Love Like This,” and is the best of Cooley’s repertoire this time around, and includes a line, which became the album title Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.

As for the Patterson songs, they are plentiful as usual, and solid in entirety. Patterson also drops his trippiest piece ever with “You And Your Crystal Meth,” which has haunting vocals, warbling and waving instrumentation, and may or may not be simulating the effects of the drug. Once again the pedal steel sounds like heaven on the sauntering episode, “The Opening Act,” calling out Debra Winger, which reminds me of Steve McQueen, Natalie Wood, The Hunter and connecting the past to the present. “The Opening Act” might be my favorite among favorites, for the lyrics and phrasing, but mostly the overall mood and a fabulous outro of “demands on the guest list” and so forth. Then again, fiery rocker “That Man I Shot,” comes complete with guitars that sound like some of the fiercest sirens ever, especially on the opening. From all this meandering, I hope you get the picture, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark will surely please any fan, and bring some new friends in as well. Don’t take my word for it, listen to the album on their myspace. The videos are live representations of a few songs from the record.

Two Daughters And A Beautiful Wife

The Opening Act

I’m Sorry Huston

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