If you haven’t heard all the raving about the newest Drive-By Truckers’ release, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, then you haven’t been paying attention! This one’s getting lots of positive press. Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Shonna Tucker have written the 19 songs on this 75 minute long album, which has exceeded even my expectations and I expect a lot.
I’ve been pretty much obsessed with this band since I first heard them on a scratchy cassette tape on a road trip in ’04. Got home and quickly educated myself on Southern Rock Opera (I grew up down there; it wasn’t hard to grasp!). I marinated in The Dirty South and Decoration Day and all those educational little ditties for a year or two until I emerged to A Blessing And A Curse, two nervous breakdowns, only one of which was mine, then a Rock Show, The Dirt Underneath Tour, a couple of t-shirts and I’m okay now.
The first cut on this album, Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife, finds Patterson Hood musing about the afterlife in a brokenhearted song about another senseless murder, in this case, the brutal killing of a musician and his family. What happens “when you reach the gates of heaven”? “Is there vengeance up in heaven?” “Maybe every day’s like Saturday morning.”
Patterson gets dirty and gritty sometimes, but never fails to deliver the story. Like Goode’s Field Road – it’s mysterious, but dark and ugly, for sure. It may be the story of the sorry ending to the life of a good man. Maybe it’ll mean something else next time I listen. Patterson said that this one is a ‘grower’. Maybe that’s what he meant by that. I liked all the songs from the first listen, but each listen brings me to new realizations. That Man I Shot is a glimpse into the life of an American soldier just doing his job and trying to stay alive. (“I did not hate him. I still don’t hate him.” “Did he have little ones that he was so proud of?”).
And, the Mike Cooley songs are, well, c’mon, this is what you’ve been waiting for, right? He is cool personified. “Here I am again – perfect timing.” He makes me grin out loud. “Twenty-five cents shy of a slice of the Double-Mint twins.” Heheh. Three Dimes Down is a riot. (Tell me he’s not talking about what I think he’s talking about here.) And, It’s Always Lisa’s Birthday is great, but, man, if he never wrote another song, Ghost To Most should get him some ‘little gold paperweight’ or something. I mean if he weren’t too cool to need such. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. That song’s toward the end of the album. There are seven Cooley songs on this album! Unbelievable! We’re not WORTHY!!!!
Bass player Shonna Tucker has stepped up to the mike on this album and let loose with three of her own songs and she does not disappoint. I’d listen to a whole lot more of that sweet voice. She’s so down-home and lonesome sounding. And so damned believable. She really does feel like her feet are both on fire standing in that Purgatory Line. I know it. Hell, I had to take off MY shoes! I don’t know why she’s apologizing to Huston or why he needs a horse, but I feel terribly sad about the whole thing anyway. But, then, she turns right around and rocks us hard on Home Field Advantage and John Neff brings in the pedal steel perfectly, as always.
Shonna, John Neff and Spooner Oldham just seem to mesh beautifully here. You’d think they’d been playing together as long as Cooley and Hood have. Spooner has played keyboards with everybody and their sister, though. He’s not exactly having to struggle to keep up. I love Spooner. How could you not?
I’m so impressed with this incarnation of this band. I’d love this album even if it didn’t have any words. And I’m a lyrics fanatic! It’s that good musically. It’s so complete. And,,, dare I say,,, polished(!?) Yet, still, so rough and raw and real, as we’ve come to expect. David Barbe produces again and Patterson thanks him every chance he gets and says he considers him one of the band. Whatever they’re doing, it’s workin’. I’m just sayin’…..
Go get this one, folks! It’s on New West Records on CD or vinyl. And go buy your own, because you’re going to want the cover art and the liner notes and all. Patterson’s thank yous alone are worth the price of admission. And speaking of admissions, this is where it’s written in print that Scott Baxendale, the guitar-maker from Denver, inspired Mike Cooley’s crowd-pleaser Checkout Time in Vegas. Well? We want to hear the rest of THAT story……
If nobody you know is talking about the Drive By Truckers yet, go now and tell ALL your friends. They’ll thank you and you’ll be the cool kid for finding them first.
Ahhh,,,,, I can’t wait until the concert this weekend in Boulder. Saturday night. It’s going to rock. I bet it will be crowded. Can we get down front? Will they sell out? Can we come backstage, guys? Naomi, can we trash your house after?