The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages

Record Review

Reviewed by Christopher Gray, June 27, 2003, Music

Drive-By Truckers

Decoration Day (New West) After making their peace with Lynyrd Skynyrd on 2001's thrilling Southern Rock Opera, Athens, Georgia's Drive-By Truckers chose a much more formidable task for Decoration Day: coming to terms with their own lives. In doing so, they touch on most of the great Southern themes: family, land, romance, honor, and guns. All this gravity makes Decoration Day considerably more subdued than its predecessor, but the Truckers have hardly forgotten how to cut loose. "Sink Hole" seethes with the tightlipped anger of rural folk too proud to default on a loan; "Marry Me" is a zealous Skynyrd-style rave-up; and "Do It Yourself" jocks along on a grinning guitar riff reminiscent of Wilco's "Monday." Arrangements are clean and spare, the tempos restrained and reserved, and the focus falls squarely on the Truckers' acutely poignant lyrics. Though founding-Trucker Patterson Hood pens nine of Decoration Day's 15 offerings, Jason Isbell and co-founder Mike Cooley each have their moments of glory -- Isbell on the forlornly prideful "Outfit" and Cooley on cautionary tale "When the Pin Hits the Shell." Hood's musings, meanwhile, range from the incest-indulging siblings of "The Deeper In" to the wryly self-deprecating "Your Daddy Hates Me." Penned in by the weight of history and personal responsibility, perpetually self-destructive in love, and itching to get out on the road and let the hammer down, the Drive-By Truckers have delivered a deeply personal album that will resonate with anyone who's ever found their life's path leading them down a dead end.


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