Published Mar 03, 2014It's all too easy to take Drive-By Truckers for granted. While fickle media and radio keep looking for newer acts to fawn over, Athens' finest just keep on cranking out albums at a prolific pace matched by few. English Oceans, their 12th album in 17 years, confirms they've lost little of their potency, despite major personnel changes over the past decade.
There's less of the full-on shit-kicking guitar and vocal splendour of the seminal DBT lineup (the one featuring the now-departed Jason Isbell and Shonna Tucker), and this will rank as one of their most mellow releases. Thankfully, the band can still boast two strong singer/songwriter/guitarists in Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, who rises to the occasion with six fine cuts (to main man Hood's seven). This helps keep things varied, within the signature sonic template DBT fans have come to know and love.
This is Southern rock with a brain, featuring well-etched characters and imaginative lyrics framed by fluent guitars, subtle keyboard touches, and the crisp production of long-time collaborator David Barbe. Hood can wax lyrical in his songs, but he's also capable of such simple poetry as "His friends could see it coming, like yellow piss on snow" ("When Walter Went Crazy"). Cooley shines on the moodily atmospheric title track and "Natural Light," a countrified gem, and things are closed out in fine fashion with the epic "Grand Canyon." Long may they keep on Truckin'. (ATO/Fontana North)