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Drive-By Truckers:: Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (Album Review)

At their best, which is most of the time, the Drive-By Truckers deliver some of the most honest and emotionally rich contemporary American rock ‘n’ roll – fierce, lyrics-driven, and deeply in touch with the interwoven coils of country and soul that give Southern music its unmistakable regional character. “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark,” the eighth album from the Athens, Ga., band with Alabama roots, is vintage Truckers for the stories it tells: portrayals, in the first person or the third, of lives far too achingly real and imprinted by such forces as crystal meth, the manufacturing recession, and the Iraq war to warrant the distancing moniker Gothic. The songcraft of leader Patterson Hood and longtime accomplice Mike Cooley is unfailingly intimate no matter how furious the guitar heroics. Yet this is also as sonically diverse a record as the Truckers have made, as bassist Shonna Tucker writes and sings for the first time (the amicable departure of Jason Isbell having freed up a writing slot), while the pedal steel of John Neff offers a sublime and haunting presence. [Siddhartha Mitter]