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"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. . ."
on February 29, 2008
After half a dozen listens, I find that The Drive-by Truckers latest recording, "Brighter Than Creation's Dark," still sounds somewhat unfinished and a bit disjointed. Many tracks here have that signature DBT grit and dark energy, and the Mike Cooley tracks rise to the top on this disc, both for their pace and wit.
Some of Patterson Hood's contributions--and I know he is the leader of the band--hold their own with his earlier work, e.g., The Opening Act. But sometimes the tales and actions of those characters who inhabit the dark places in his mind push me away. For instance, the broken glass in your fingertips tone of You and Your Crystal Meth is haunting but not something I can say I'm drawn to want to hear over and over. Nor can I muster much love for Daddy Needs a Drink
I think the Shonna Tucker songs are certainly OK, if a bit tentative, and her somewhat hesitant voice betrays emotions not fully vented here. She and drummer Brad Morgan do make a whale of a rhythm section. Another plus if having Spooner Oldham in the mix on about three-fourths of songs, and the cagey keyboard vet never gets in the way and sounds as smooth as ever here.
But I have to say it: I miss Jason Isbell's contribution, both his songs and his guitars. Although John Neff knows his way around the music here, he does not seem to have permission to take over some of the songs the way Isbell could at times.
If the tone and energy here only matched that of Wes Freed's excellent artwork, than "Darker than Creation's Bright" would be the next great DBT recording instead of being a very good one. What's lacking, for me, is that sense of coherence that makes an album great. To quote Yeats, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. . ."