**NOTE: Contest is now closed. You can still participate but will no longer be eligible for the giveaway.**
The Drive-by Truckers had to make ‘Brighter Than Creations Dark‘ in the way that they did. Consisting of 19 songs comprising 75 minutes of twanged up tell-it-like-it-is rock n’ roll. I’m sure the band will attribute the length and breadth of this album to a fertile period. But let’s face it, there’s a big reason this album needed to make a statement. “What!? Tom, you must be drinking crazy juice again” you say. Why would the Drive-by Truckers, a definitive alt-country band, need a reason to make a record other than the need to pay the utility bills and live a rock ‘n roll lifestyle? Well, there’s at least one good reason. Check it…
Prior to the making of this record, Jason Isbell, a DBT staple and core member of the band, decided to go it alone (we all hope this is just a phase). So what does Isbell go and do but make a solid, poignant record thus proving he’s got the chops to do what the Trucker’s do best and do it on his own. We at Twangville loved ‘Sirens of the Ditch’ so much we collectively named it our favorite album of the year in 2008. To my knowledge, Isbell hasn’t come clean on why he left one of the greatest alt country bands ever and I’m sure he’s got more than one reason. But one can only cite the awkwardness of working together on a regular basis with your ex (Shonna Tucker). I mean, who wants to be around when the other is locking lips with someone else around the corner? All parties claim that each is still on friendly terms and that seems acceptable even if some speculation proves true.
So let’s dissect their latest release a little. In talking about the recent move by New West to release some of the band’s catalog on vinyl (great move for us fans) refers to ‘Brighter Than Creation’s Dark’ as “our finest album”. A bold statement for sure considering the strength of their résumé. I’m not ready to make that leap yet but I will go as far as to say that its up there. On the one hand you have to cut them some slack. Putting 19 songs on a single record and expecting them all to be home runs just isn’t realistic. I recently did a little experiment where I split the record into two distinctive halves. One consisting of the twanged up rock we’ve all come to know and love and the other binding together their more countrified baladry. What I discovered was there could be two very different records here. A rockin’ one that sits up there with their best records including my personal favorite ‘The Dirty South’ and the other a pretty damn good country record in the grand scheme of things. We as fans should be grateful they decided to pack all these songs on to one record. Its like getting two for the price of one but even better due to the thoughtful grouping of the songs into 4 ‘sides’.
Now, arguably there’s some definite B-side material here. As much as I hate to admit it there are several songs that I’d pull off to make a stronger offering but still a full size album. An abridged version if you will. For instance, I’d lose “I’m Sorry Huston”, “Daddy Needs a Drink”, “Bob”, “The Purgatory Line” and “You And Your Crystal Meth”. All pretty good songs when you look at the clever songwriting. They just seem to be downers on a record that doesn’t really need them. Two of those songs were written and sung by the previously taciturn Tucker. This is not to discourage her efforts because I believe it was a bold move to step to the forefront of the band on her part as well as the band’s ability to take some chances with the departure of ex-husband Isbell. And by all means, “Home Field Advantage” also written by Tucker is a pretty cool song. Tucker also does a fantastic job with backup vocals to several songs including the opener “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife”.
In summary, I like to think that we the fans got around 4 or 5 DBT free’B’ies on one of the best Drive-by Truckers records to date. You’ve still got around 14 boot stompin’, whiskey sippin’ songs and one slammin’ album from Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Shonna Tucker, Brad Morgan, John Neff and Spooner Oldham together in one of the best southern rock bands ever.
There’s one thing for sure, the Drive-by Truckers proved they don’t need Jason Isbell to carry on. And Isbell certainly proved he doesn’t need DBT. But I have to say, the ‘three axe attack’ is still better with Isbell in it. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake there is a reunion in our future.
Now for the goodies! The kind and generous folks at New West in partnership with the Drive-by Truckers are offering 5 lucky fans one copy of Brighter Than Creation’s Dark and one copy of a DBT vinyl reissue right here on Twangville and all you have to do is leave a comment below to be eligible. Please limit yourself to one comment per person. Contest ends Friday, 4/25/08 at midnight EST. Winners will be contacted by e-mail prior to any announcements.*
Purchase ‘Brighter Than Creations Dark’ from Miles of Music.
* By participating in this contest you agree to allow Twangville to post the winner’s name and city on our web site. We pass along the winning addresses to the promotions company for fulfillment. Twangville will not use your address for any other reason.
About the author: Washington, D.C. area web designer by day. Music freak by night. I host Twangville‘s weekly Readers‘ Pick.