Drive-by Truckers

A Blessing and a Curse (New West)

Phases and Stages

Drive-by Truckers

A Blessing and a Curse (New West)

After three albums that brought Faulknerian depth and America Undercover realism to hardscrabble Southern rock, the Drive-by Truckers downshift somewhat on this seventh effort. Blessing lodges in the mold-ridden nooks and crannies between the broad strokes of Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day, and The Dirty South. After such a psychically and physically exhausting trilogy, it'd be natural to take a breather, but instead the Truckers ratchet up the emotional stakes with a series of vividly tragicomic vignettes that only seem small. The Georgia quintet's gallows humor and mordant observations are keen as ever, from the lover's spat of "Feb 14" to the hard-bitten advice of "Easy on Yourself." The real question is why Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, who would dominate any other band's publishing credits, land a mere three songs on the album between them. The Truckers have always been Patterson Hood's baby, and still are, but it's not quite that simple. "Aftermath USA," one of the more gruesome morning-after songs in recent memory, is the first song credited to the group as a whole since Isbell came aboard in 2003. Not coincidentally, it's the pick of this litter. Even in a lower gear, the Truckers are hardly idling. (DBT mauls Stubb's, Saturday, April 29.)

***

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