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Rock - Released January 31, 2020 | ATO RECORDS

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"I've always said that all of our records are political but..that 'politics is personal,'" Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood has stated of the band's 12th release. "With that in mind, this album is especially personal.” Every blight on the current American landscape is name-checked, from immigrant mistreatment ("Babies in Cages") to incels ("Grievance Merchants") to the hopelessness of mass shootings ("Thoughts and Prayers"). "21st Century USA" is a list of modern-day devastations: pay-day loans, wage inequality, credit-card debt, evangelical hypocrisy, pain pills. "With Big Brother watching me always, why must I always feel so alone," the lyrics intone over an amiable country-rock beat. The bleak portraits are often set against Americana sounds that recall Uncle Tupelo's heartland fervor ("Slow Ride Argument"), Springsteen's red-blooded rock 'n' roll ("Armageddon's Back in Town") and "Murmur"-era REM's earnest twang ("Thoughts and Prayers"). Appropriately, on "Heroin Again," a fed-up lament of the current opioid epidemic that echoes the drug damage of the '90s, the bass stomps and guitar chugs like a lost grunge anthem. The Unraveling isn't the feel-good album of the year, but it sure does sound good. © Shelly Ridenour / Qobuz
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Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Lost Highway Records

Don't be deterred by the rather misleading title. Not a rock opera in the sense of Tommy or Jesus Christ Superstar, this sprawling double disc is more akin to a song cycle about Southern rock, in particular Lynyrd Skynyrd. Almost six years in the making, the Drive-By Truckers have created a startlingly intelligent work that proudly stands with the best music of their obvious inspiration. Largely written and conceived by lead trucker Patterson Hood (son of famed Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood), who sings the majority of the songs in a torn, ragged, but emotionally charged twangy voice somewhere between Tom Petty and Rod Stewart, these 20 literate tracks encapsulate a remarkably objective look at what Hood calls "the duality of the South." Rocking with a lean hardness, the story unfolds over 90 minutes, but the savvy lyrical observations never overburden the songs' clenched grip. While bands like the similarly styled Bottle Rockets have worked this territory before, never has a group created an opus that's thematically tied to this genre while objectively exploring its conceptual limitations. The two discs are divided into Acts I and II; the first sets the stage by exploring aspects of an unnamed Southern teen's background growing up as a music fan in an environment where sports stars, not rock stars, were idolized. The second follows him as he joins his Skynyrd-styled dream band, tours the world, and eventually crashes to his death in the same sort of airplane accident that claimed his heroes. The Drive-By Truckers proudly charge through these songs with their three guitars, grinding and soloing with a swampy intensity recalling a grittier, less commercially viable early version of Skynyrd. A potentially dodgy concept that's redeemed by magnificent songwriting, passionate singing, and ruggedly confident but far from over-the-top playing, Southern Rock Opera should be required listening not only for fans of the genre, but anyone interested in the history of '70s rock, or even the history of the South in that decade. More the story of Hood than Skynyrd, this is thought-provoking music that also slashes, burns, and kicks out the jams. Its narrative comes to life through these songs of alienation, excess, and, ultimately, salvation, as seen through the eyes of someone who lived and understands it better than most. ~ Hal Horowitz
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Rock - Released January 1, 2016 | ATO Records (AT0)

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2015 | ATO Records (AT0)

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Rock - Released February 5, 2008 | New West Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2010 | ATO RECORDS

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Rock - Released February 5, 2008 | New West Records

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Rock - Released June 24, 2008 | New West Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2014 | ATO Records (AT0)

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Rock - Released February 5, 2008 | New West Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2015 | ATO Records (AT0)

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Rock - Released April 2, 2011 | New West Records

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Rock - Released January 31, 2020 | ATO RECORDS

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2013 | ATO Records (AT0)

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 7, 2017 | ATO RECORDS

Rock - Released December 15, 2008 | New West Records

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Drive-By Truckers leader Patterson Hood wrote in a post on the band's website that 2007 "was supposed to be our year of taking it easy," but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way, and that's a good thing for everyone concerned. The songwriting bug seems to have bit the Drive-By Truckers sometime after the release of 2006's A Blessing and a Curse, and while that album was a bit short on top-shelf material (at least compared to the band's work since Southern Rock Opera), Brighter Than Creation's Dark is a dazzling return to form, delivering some of their finest, most eclectic, and most mature music to date. The album's strength is a pleasant surprise given the departure of guitarist and tunesmith Jason Isbell, who had become one of the group's most interesting writers, but founding members Hood and Mike Cooley have risen to the occasion with some excellent new songs, and bassist Shonna Tucker (who's also Isbell's ex-wife) steps forward as a composer and lead vocalist on this set with three great songs about broken hearts and the stuff that follows in their wake. Opening with "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife," a song by Hood sung from the perspective of a man who has just died and wonders what will become of his family, Brighter Than Creation's Dark presents 19 portraits of folks struggling to make sense of an increasingly chaotic world, ranging from an alcoholic father ("Daddy Needs a Drink") and a family man struggling to hold onto a little piece of the American dream ("The Righteous Path") to a middle-aged guy whose gotten a little too used to being lonely ("Bob") and an illegal gun dealer running short on options ("Checkout Time in Vegas"). While the Truckers are still a great full-tilt hard rock band, Brighter Than Creation's Dark finds them slowing down and turning down a bit more than usual, and in this case it works well for them -- the homey twang of "Lisa's Birthday" and "I'm Sorry Huston" gives new guitarist and pedal steel player John Neff a chance to shine, and the light acoustic arrangement of "Perfect Timing" fits the lyrical portrait of a cheerfully flawed man just fine. And "That Man I Shot" is a blazing, troubling masterpiece in which a soldier home from Iraq can't tear away the memory of a man he killed in combat ("That man I shot, I didn't know him/I was just doing my job, maybe so was he"). It's a tale of the most human consequences of war that's built from equal portions of anger, confusion, and compassion, and it's hard to imagine any other band pulling off its fusion of Southern-fried street smarts and guitar-fueled thunder. It's one of several brilliant moments on Brighter Than Creation's Dark, and less than three weeks into 2008 it's hard not to escape the feeling that with this disc we may already have the best album of the year. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released September 1, 2009 | New West Records

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Rock - Released November 20, 2019 | ATO RECORDS

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 17, 2014 | ATO Records (AT0)

For years, Mike Cooley has been the George Harrison of the Drive-By Truckers, the guy who contributed two or three fine songs to each DBTs album while frontman Patterson Hood penned the bulk of the band's repertoire. That changes with English Oceans, the band's tenth studio album, where Cooley gets co-star status for a change -- he penned six of the album's 13 tunes, and sings lead on Hood's "Til He's Dead or Rises." By accident or design, the increased presence of Cooley's songs gives English Oceans a feel of call and response, as Cooley's smart but plainspoken style faces off against Hood's more artful approach as they both spin tales of characters struggling to make sense of the world around them. While the album opens with a world-class rocker, Cooley's "Shit Shots Count," which could pass for a Dixie-fried outtake from Exile on Main St., for the most part English Oceans finds the Truckers in a thoughtful, low-key mood, with the guitar firepower dialed back a bit and both writers imagining characters whose lives range from the poignant ("Primer Coat," "When He's Gone") to the bitter ("The Part of Him") to the tragic ("Made Up English Oceans," "When Walter Went Crazy"). Subtlety has never been this band's biggest selling point, but on English Oceans the Drive-By Truckers show they can pare back their arrangements and create something more atmospheric without stripping their songs of what makes them powerful; Jay Gonzalez's spectral keyboards add a wealth of detail to "Made Up English Oceans" and "Hanging On," and drummer Brad Morgan and bassist Matt Patton are a rhythm section that can rise to any challenge these songs present. Ten albums and 18 years on from their first show, the Drive-By Truckers are still capable of mixing things up and showing off new sides of their skill set, and that's certainly the case with English Oceans, which shows them making wise use of all their talents -- not just Mike Cooley. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released January 14, 2020 | ATO RECORDS