Keep on truckin’

Drive-By Truckers
“Brighter Than Creation’s Dark”
4.5 out of 5 stars

The Drive-By Truckers (DBT) don’t like to be pigeonholed. Upon the release of their third album, “Southern Rock Opera,” the band found itself constantly shadowed by the term “southern rock band.” Certainly you can hear a whole lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd influences scattered throughout all seven of their albums, but the fact is that there are just as many cues taken from the Rolling Stones and the Faces as well.

In the face of mounting tensions and exhaustion in the summer of 2006 following the release of their last record, “A Blessing and a Curse,” the band set out to shatter those stereotypes.

The stress ultimately resulted in songwriter and guitarist Jason Isbell’s departure from the band. While lesser bands would have been crippled by the loss, DBT was strengthened by the addition of John Neff on guitar and the legendary Spooner Oldham on keyboard. All of this leads us to the group’s seventh full-length, “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.”

It’s one monster record: 19 songs clocking in at around 76 minutes. The main reason for the Trucker’s success has always been in the songwriting, and the tandem of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley has few equals when it comes to the great songwriters of the present era. In their own distinct styles, the two of them are able to craft stirring vignettes about love and loss, desperation and frustration, and despair and hope. In addition to Cooley and Hood, bassist Shonna Tucker (Isbell’s ex-wife) takes her first turns at songwriting and singing, contributing three solid tracks to the record.

Though the songwriting tends to get the brunt of the attention, you can’t discredit their musicianship one bit. With a two and three guitar attack, the Truckers can growl and bark their way through a rocker like few bands can. However, with elements of ’60s style R&B and country thrown in now and again, the band has done well to break those stereotypes.

From start to finish this is one hell of a record. Though it’s still very early in the year, there is a good chance that this may be the best record of 2008.

Key Tracks: “A Ghost to Most,” “The Righteous Path,” “3 Dimes Down”