When a band has a shakeup in its’ lineup critics will often look skeptically at their follow up album. But when the follow up is an epic 70 minute 19 song project, even a reasonable critic has to wonder if they can pull it off. Fortunately for us the Truckers not only pull it off, but they deliver an instant classic. In fact, front man Patterson Hood feels that Brighter than Creation’s Dark is their best work. It is hard to argue with him, although I personally love the Truckers music to a degree that makes it hard for me to single out one album as their best.
The loss of Jason Isbell was significant but Hood and Mike Cooley had a recipe for success. Take away one electric guitar (Isbell) but add Pedal Steel (John Neff) and one legendary keyboardist (Spooner Oldham) along with a female voice (Isbell’s ex Shonna Tucker). The resulting entree’ these ingredients make could make Martha Stewart proud. However, Martha would need to get liquored up and go back to prison in order to truly appreciate this meal.
The album is full of all of the things that make the Truckers great. It is reminiscent in some ways of Southern Rock Opera. Patterson Hood can still tell the story of the struggling Southern working man like no one else. His stories are also able to resonate with everyone trying to navigate their way through this life. Take “Righteous Path” as an example. On this song Hood sings, “I don’t know God but I fear his wrath. I’m just trying to stay on the righteous path.”
Mike Cooley can still deliver tales of excess and debauchery with the best of them. “Three Dimes Down” and the hilarious country song “Lisa’s Birthday” are the best examples of this. But on this album Cooley’s lyrics have more depth and self-reflection than ever. On “Perfect Timing” Cooley says “I used to hate the fool in me but only in the morning. Now I tolerate him all day long.”
Shonna Tucker contributes and sings three songs on the album. Her voice is good and has a touch of a rough soulful quality that fits nicely on the album. You can especially hear the soulful edge on “Home Field Advantage.”
Patterson Hood’s song “man I Shot” is a song about a soldier in Iraq that I think anyone can appreciate. Much like Jason Isbell’s “Dress Blues” the tragedy of war is shown in a way that is moving no matter your political affiliation. Also true to form for the Truckers, drug addiction in rural America is discussed in a few songs like “You and your Crystal Meth.” Indeed the Truckers have mixed what has always made them great with some new twists that show they are going to continue to be great for some time to come.
Check out a few of their new songs on the DBT MySpace Page
This review also appears on Amber Waves of Twang
About the author: Chip and his family live in Birmingham, AL. Roll Tide!