I've been listening to this album pretty much non-stop for the last couple of weeks. As a longtime DBT fan, I'm pretty comfortable in saying that I think this is their best album yet. I was worried when Jason Isbell left the band. I wasn't sure the band could keep up the quality without Jason in the band. But I was wrong. And that's not in any way meant to be a knock on Jason Isbell. (I love his solo record!) It's just that DBT pulled a rabbit out of their hat with BTCD. From start to finish, this record is nothing but top-notch songs. Great melodies, great lyrics. Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood...along with the impressive Shonna Tucker...really hit a home run with this one. Too long? No way. Full of filler? No way. Nineteen kick-butt songs, and nothing else. I swear, there isn't a bad song on this album. And there are a bunch that stand out as just totally killer tracks: "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife," "The Righteous Path," "I'm Sorry Huston," "Self Destructive Zones," "The Opening Act," "That Man I Shot" (rock and roll!!!), "The Purgatory Line," and the album closer, "Monument Valley." All freakin' fabulous songs. And my favorite song (for the moment) on the album? "You and Your Crystal Meth." Never have I heard 7 notes on a piano tell such a chilling, haunting story. By far one of the most thought-provoking songs I've heard in a long time. I really and truly think this is the Drive-By Truckers best album to date. They've had other fabulous records, but this one shows that their aging like fine wine. Hats off to Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and the rest of the best Southern rock and roll band in the world today. And one of the best rock and roll bands in the world...period!
on September 1, 2008
Let me start off by saying that I love the sh*t out of this band! They have never done a weak album. Sure, some are better than others, but fans tend to get spoiled after the likes of Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day, the Dirty South and the fantastic Live at the 40 Watt DVD.
I've noticed a bit of rumbling in the ranks since the release of A Blessing and a Curse. Even Patterson Hood has had some misgivings about that album. But it still is quite a fine album when compared to the sad state of rock 'n' roll these days. As far as A Blessing and a Curse is concerned, the longer I owned it and played it, the more it grew on me. DBT albums tend to be that way.
Which brings us to the subject at hand, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, the latest release by DBT. The album is clearly transitional, and not just because Jason Isbell has left the band. The record also showcases the softer, "acoustic" side of the band more than any other previous release. Then there is the emergence of Shonna Tucker as a songwriter and vocalist. John Neff also rises to the occasion with extremely atmospheric pedal steel guitar (Jesus, his work on "The Opening Act" is beyond evocative and atmospheric and really makes that tune the highlight of the album), tasty slide and electric lead("3 Dimes Down") and gorgeous acoustic lead guitar ("Perfect Timing", which sounds like some bastard child of the Grateful Dead's Workingman and American Beauty period with a touch of Reckoning thrown in). It also includes the incredibly wise keyboard playing of veteran sideman Spooner Oldham whose timing is deliciously and perfectly off-kilter for the Jack Daniels meets heroin sound of the DBT.
Hood's nine contributions to the album vary in quality and style, the best being the aforementioned "The Opening Act" (which is just killer), "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife", "Daddy Needs a Drink" and the lethargic "Monument Valley". Patterson's, "That Man I Shot", has powerful and ferocious guitar work which lends to the moral dilema of the song's subject. But the tune, as brash and furious as Hood's interesting lyrics are presented, lacks an interesting bridge. "The Righteous Path" is another interesting lyric which is set to a plodding repetitive simple chord progression which seems borrowed from "The Buford Stick", but the latter song was more interesting. The thankfully short, "You and Your Crystal Meth", is about as interesting musically as an anti-drug TV ad - very forgettable on a musical level.
Hood's other midling efforts for this album include "The Home Front" (an Iraqi war veteran's wife's story) and the suicidal and monotonous "Goode's Field Road".
Shonna Tucker's three contributions to the album deserve more credit than most have given them in previous reviews. The rockin' "Home Field Advantage" has the makings of a hit, although perhaps it should fade out during the dissonant "jam" at the end for the single edit. "Purgatory Line," is gorgeous and atypical of DBT, exposing the possibilities still yet unexplored by this band. "I'm Sorry Huston," leaves plenty of mystery in its lyrics' story line and the melody is palpably mournful. I encourage Shonna to continue her pursuit as a songwriter. She's got some interesting stuff to be heard.
Cooley's always accessible contributions to the album are a welcome interval between the stylings of Hood and Tucker. Mike weighs in with seven tunes, the best of which are "Ghost To Most" (this is classic DBT), and the gorgeous, if not somewhat melodically predictable, "Checkout Time In Vegas." "Lisa's Birthday," might be melodically and subjectively tried and true, but dammit I love this tune. "Bob," is also a cool, melodically simple, yet complex character study done with an economy of words ("He might kneel but he doesn't bend over"). "Self Destructive Zones" is a graet tune melodically, with a lyric which puzzles me at times. The aforementioned "Perfect Timing," has really tasty acoustic guitar by John Neff which really dresses the Cooley tune up nicely.
Cooley's earliest effort on the record, "3 Dimes Down," has stellar slide and other guitar work by John Neff. The track begins in a completely promising fashion with great guitar riffs and interplay with a sound reminiscent of the Stones and Faces in their heyday. It's a great song but I wish it had another verse at the end instead of two verses and a long instrumental bridge and ending. Seems like this tune, like this album, falls 25 cents shy of a slice of the Doublemint Twins.
Still, a DBT album that falls short is ninety nine times better than anything else out there. I give it four stars! So rock on and enjoy it. Play this CD frequently until you are able to see this great band when they come to your town. Make sure you're in a Jack Daniels frame of mind. It's the heroin of booze.
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. . ."
on April 17, 2014
BTCD is a 19-song album. I like how it is presented on the CD case as having four sides, like an old 2-disc vinyl record. The songs are not all excellent, but quite a few of them are, enough to fill a shorter album.
Of Patterson Hood's nine songs, my favorites are "Goode's Field Road," a cautionary tale over an unusual, dark, blues vamp, and three subtle anti-war songs: 1) "That Man I Shot," 2) "The Home Front," and 3) "The Monument Valley." The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still grinding on, year after year, and their impact is described from the perspectives of a guilt-ridden vet (1) and a wife waiting for her husband to come home (2). 3 is a critique of war propaganda thinly veiled as a tribute to John Ford.
I am generally more impressed by Mike Cooley's laconic tales. They are usually complex, with a twist, and often maddeningly cryptic. His seven songs are all really good to great. "A Ghost to Most" is a subtle jab at Bush:
"Saving everybody takes a man on a mission
with a swagger that can set the world at ease
Some believe it's God's own hand on the trigger"
"Checkout Time in Vegas," the source of the title of the album, is a brilliant noir vignette. "Perfect Timing," "Bob," and "Lisa's Birthday" are all poignant character sketches.
I can't say any of Shonna Tucker's three songs are that strong.
The album's secret weapon that makes it sound fantastic is John Neff's pedal steel guitar. Special guest Spooner Oldham on keyboards is also key to the great textures and sound, brought together by engineer and producer David Barbe. Wes Freed once again contributes his distinctive art, including a beatiful painting of a Southwest desert scene (Monument Valley) on the cover of the lyrics booklet.
While not as powerful as Decoration Day (2003) or The Dirty South (2004), BTCD is a strong DBT album, and should not be missed by anyone who appreciates the band's music.
on December 23, 2015
If I had to pick a DBT album that was my least favorite, it would probably be this on, although I still think it's pretty good. I'm not sure what it is, but the lyrics and music don't grab me like other DBT CDs
on November 3, 2008
When listening to the earlier "The Dirty South" I felt a sudden urge to become an alcoholic, beat up my boss, and get behind the wheel of a rusted early 70's Pontiac and find my way into a confrontation with local law enforcement. So these guys know how to have an effect with their music. For those who are looking to music help them escape their own problems vs. become wrapped up in the hard luck and troubles of the down and out trailer crowd, you're in luck (well, sort of). "Brighter than Creations Dark" is still full of characters and people either headed the wrong way or stuck there by forces beyond their control, but some of the desperation is gone and now they find some time for hanging in a bar rocking out to some adrenaline pumping tunes like "3 Dimes Down," "Home Field Advantage," and "Self Destructive Zones" (a great send-up of some of Rock's lamer fads). Sure "Daddy Needs a Drink" and "You and Your Crystal Meth" are nothing to listen to if you need a pick-me up, but you can throw on "Perfect Timing" for a little feel good sing-along. The guys who told the moonshiners' side of the story in "Bufford Stick" are still going strong, but they're willing to allow a little more daylight on the scene and this album has more genuine rockers than was typically the case in earlier efforts. Still, the DBT's songs generally aren't to be taken lightly and if you really listen to them you hear a band that knows how to play, but also has staked out the voice of the economically disadvantaged in a way that shows clearly how Springsteen and Mellencamp only postured -- these guys sound like they lived it. As far as being "Southern Rock" -- think Athens as much as Statesboro -- they have both that unique authenticity old Southern Rock was synonymous with as well as the willingness to experiment and move beyond the slide guitars and beards clichés.
on May 17, 2008
This is an amazing album by an amazing band. To me, this is the best album of the decade so far. Not that I know every record made, but it is my favorite of anything I have heard. Is it flawless, no, a few of the (19!) songs are good but not great, "That Man I Shot" could have used a little work on the structure / lyrics toward the end, but Patterson Hood just continues to amaze with some of the most intelligent lyrics (are some of them a bit dark, yes, but I find it interesting, insightful, and often wry / funny rather than morose) as does Mike Cooley, and Shonna gives a great freshman effort in throwing her impressive creativity into the mix. The music is as varied as it is excellent, although this is decidedly more mellow than some of their older work. The overall way DBT has mixed country, progressive rock, 70's rock, and southern rock into their own unique hybrid, and added in exceptionally intelligent lyrics and passion, to me is just frackin' awesome. I just love it when a band forges their own path that is hard to compare to what came before them, rather than just copying what has already been done. And I give them a lot of credit on this album to be able to recover from the loss of a key band member, and use that as an opportunity to go in a slightly different direction rather than re-hashing what they have already done. The elevation of Shonna into a song writing role, the heavier incorporation of steel guitar, and a greater proportion of...I hate to say mellow...it's not like it will put you to sleep, but most of it is more akin to the mellow tone of My Sweet Annette rather than the more blazing old songs like Sinkhole, but to me, that is nice in that it is something a little different. I am so addicted to this album. In the first week I got it I listened to it over and over and over until I had to force myself to stop, for fear of wearing out the appeal of it. I can't get it out of my head. Buy this album.
on March 4, 2015
This baby has been sitting in my vast archives for years. I bought it right when it came out but mourned the loss of Jason to greener paths. It was just ok at the time. Maybe it had something to do with the loss of Jason who I though was their finest writer and best vocalist. Then I read they were coming to town with a semi--unplugged show in April 2015. I really was excited about this. I love the band but really get tired of their concerts--I know --Jack Daniels and all the other happy southern stuff. But, honestly, they often sound terrible near the end of their shows--too loud and sloppy for my tastes.
So I gave this CD another spin. It was good. Then, another spin, better. Then another spin--I thought, wow, this is really good.
It starts off with a gorgeous ballad that is rare for a band--no band starts off with one of their prettier, mellower songs. But they pulled it off to a tee-Two daughters and a beautiful wife, Patterson at his finest, but really the band just shines--some sweet piano, some tasty pedal steel...such a fine song. Then Cooley kicks in with some fine Stones/Replacements type songs, and a real nice country song--Lisa's Birthday (also Bob). He sounds like Randy Travis...very tasty. Shonna adds some sweet tunes.
This is a strong album, maybe their best. I need to catch up and get their last three. Like I said, I got jaded by their obnoxious and drunken shows, but will give it a go in April. I almost prefer their studio stuff compared to their live stuff. I would say, in sum, that the first ten songs could easily be a greatest hits album. It is that strong--both the songwriting as well as the performances...just rich, atmospheric, deep stuff...each song different from the previous one. That is rare indeed!
on September 8, 2008
I have a couple of DBT previous efforts, and love them all and rate this up with all I have listened to, for the simple reason that the emotional resonance of the material is far ahead of, and more real than whats gone before. I'm sorry previous reviewers but just because you don't do P (Crystal Meth)and thats a good thing, isn't reason to not try and understand a corner of society and the message being conveyed. I wonder just how some people listen to music. Do you just switch off when you don't like the subject material? (Oh that doesn't suit my small town sensibilities, I will skip this track and give a bummer review)This music is challenging, dark and sometimes scary. Its not better or worse than previous efforts its of a time and a place both in terms of the band and of the environment being talked about. I'm looking forward to listening to Brighter than Creations Dark over the next couple of years and making sense of its many parts and enjoying the dark themes and storys.
A seriously good band. Not commercial but the producer of serious tales of the twisted American south.
on January 26, 2008
Ever since their critical breakout Southern Rock Opera The mainstream press has always wanted to compare The Drive By Truckers with Lynyrd Skynyrd. I suppose some of this is the band's fault, by making a song cycle out of Skynyrd the comparisons were inevitable. The thing is the band that I've always thought they should be compared with (if being compared at all) is The Replacements, albeit with two exceptions. The first being southern accents and the southern lore behind them, and the second being the fact that DBT has always had multiple songwriters pulling the whole thing together. It all starts with Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley though despite some fantastic songs by former guitarist Jason Isbell over his three album run and now, on Brighter Than Creation's Dark, three excellent songs by his ex-wife, bassist Shonna Tucker. Cooley has always been less prolific than Hood, until now. On BTCD Cooley contributes 7 stellar tracks ranging from the straight up country of "Lisa's Birthday" to the rocking Exile on Main Street inspired "Three Dimes Down". HIs finest contribution to this album, however, might be "Perfect Timing" about a man coming to terms with himself. The line "I used to hate the fool in me but only in the morning now I tolerate him all day long" is absolutely brilliant but will probably have it's greatest impact on those of us who saw the age of 30 a long time ago. Hood mines similar territory here with his excellent "The Righteous Path" but takes a less philosophical and more everyman approach.
The real strength of BTCD is it's musical diversity. It can go from hauntingly beautiful and sad, "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife" to whimiscal and profound in "Bob" and then go ahead and rock out with Tucker's "Homfield Advantage" and the previously mentioned "Three Dimes Down" and "The Righteous Path". 19 songs is a heck of alot for one album but this one wouldn't be as good if even one track were removed. As I mentioned Shonna Tucker is a revelation on this album, both for her own excellent three songs and the delightful harmonies she provides on Hood's tracks. I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the contributions form always steady drummer Brad "EZB" Morgan, Guitarist/Pedal Steel player John Neff, and the legenday Muscle Shoals organist Spooner Oldham. Neff's picking is subtle when it needs to be and upfront when that's required more than making up for the loss of Jason Isbell. Oldham's organ lines are nothing short of magic giving DBT an entirely new element to the soundscape (although he did also appear on "When the Pin Hits the Shell").
In the end all you need to know is that this album is an instant classic, possibly the best ever by an already stellar band. If you liked them before it's nearly a foregone coonclusion that you'll like this record. If you're new to DBT pick it up, you just might like what you hear.