Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark

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“Gosh Joe Bob. I wish that ace Isbell hadn’t slid outta here with his slide. The boys sharpened their pencils this time, they did, but after a bottle of Jack, darned if I can't remembuh a riff or wash the twang from my mouth.”

Liberally furnished with 19 songs, DBT tries to adapt to life without Jason Isbell, who, when he was introduced to the group, brought the type of magic that Ringo brought to the Beatles, only, with talent. DBT's founders, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, have written great albums, but Isbell added a third voice, slide guitar, and songwriter that helped the band move beyond the predictability of a two-sided coin. As The Who's Pete Townshend said of bassist John Entwistle, the band offered a challenge Isbell couldn't find anywhere else (and as his own solo CD has confirmed). That's quite the compliment for a musician, and the loss of same... hurts.

"Creation's Dark" includes some great lyrics - "The Righteous Path," "Daddy Needs a Drink," "Checkout Time in Vegas," "You "Your Crystal Meth," "Monument Valley" and others speak to either poignant social commentary or more specifically to residents of the South that most of us try to avoid. "Bob" and "Lisa's Birthday" both include Cooley's trademark wry humor, which are always welcome.

So, what's wrong? In addition to four throw away songs by bassist Shonna Tucker, the sound is what is wrong. Replacing Isbell's slide guitar with pedal steel, no matter the reputation of the artist behind it, removes their musical punctuation marks and replaces it with a twangy blandness. This simply feeds the band's (and particularly Cooley's) occasional country tendencies and leaves but a marred remnant of what had become the greatest (current) Southern Rock Band.

I've had friends who have seen the new line-up in concert, who were very praising of what the band has now become. But on CD, where all is clear to the ears, it's an lyrical improvement from their rather lackluster previous release, but the words cry out for better expression.

Suggested Track: "The Righteous Path"

3 Stars

Not my favorite song, but a great video. "Perfect Timing"

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