DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS-“Brighter Than Creation’s Dark”

Note: This is a reprint from my old site.

At 19 songs, you might at first think Brighter Than Creation’s Dark is bloated. You’d be a little right, but not too much so. You might also worry because the band is so different now. There, your fears are baseless. Patterson Hood is still there, of course, as is Mike Cooley. Jason Isbell is gone. But, in the divorce, the DBTs got Shonna Tucker (Jason’s ex-wife). Although Isbell’s solo album, released last year, was a fine record, the Drive-By Truckers clearly got the better end of the deal. Also new to the band are John Neff on Pedal Steel, Mussel Shoal’s session keyboardist Spooner Oldham (who worked on When a Man Loves a Woman with Percy Sledge, and songs with Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, to name a few), and the best addition of all, Jason Isbell’s former girl, Shonna Tucker. From the opening track, Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife, the change is apparent. It’s pretty standard DBT fare, but Shonna’s harmonies give the band a younger feel (think: Deadstring Brothers), and inject new life into the band.

The Bob Seger shout out on the second cut, 3 Dimes Down (“Come back baby, rock and roll never forgets”) is a heartfelt beckoning. The DBTs have never had more energy. They’ve left a lot of the dark sadness that wept through the jams on their last two albums, and have focused on tightening up their songs. There’s less rambling by Patterson and more hooks, more rhythm, more interplay between the musicians. And when they slow it down for the first time on I’m Sorry Houston, giving the lead vocals to Ms. Tucker and letter her shine, the changes in the band reveal a loving sense of hope I’ve never heard in any DBT songs before this. Other gems include the Mike Cooley fast-time blues ramble, Perfect Timing; Patterson Hood showing his sensitive side on Daddy Needs a Drink; the anthemic Home Field Advantage; heck, they’re practically all great. A couple toss-offs like Bob and Lisa’s Birthday could’ve been cut, but on the whole, that’s a minor complaint.

Overall, despite the changes in members and the emphasis on a kinder, gentler sound on many tracks, “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” is still quintessentially a Drive-By Truckers album: Each song tells a story of a person’s troubles, but without being a classic tale of woe. At bottom, the DBTs have always been studies of the human condition, as exemplified in individual lives, and that continues here, brilliantly.

Check it out.

And check out the album live!

1. Two Daughters And A Beautiful Wife
2. 3 Dimes Down
3. The Righteous Path
4. I’m Sorry Huston
5. Perfect Timing
6. Daddy Needs A Drink
7. Self Destructive Zones
8. Bob
9. Home Field Advantage
10. The Opening Act. This live version is just Patterson alone.
11. Lisa’s Birthday No, not the Simpson’s faux Michael Jackson song. But because of the title, I just can’t take this song seriously.
12. That Man I Shot. Lyrically, my favorite song on the new album. Haunting, moving, powerful–like the song version of the Cronenberg masterpiece, “The End of Violence.”
13.The Purgatory Line 3:48 Not Available
14. The Home Front
15. Checkout Time In Vegas. This track and track 14 are often played together in sequence in concert.
16. You And Your Crystal Meth. Clocks in at two minutes on the album, but this jamming version is, thankfully, much longer.
17. Goode’s Field Road
18. Ghost To Most
19. Monument Valley. Does this song remind anyone else of Final-Cut-era Pink Floyd, or am I just crazy?

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