Good Ole Boys
In my opinion, the two best rock records this year and a reminder that DBT, Snider, and even Isbell have discographies that sorely need to be revisited and reloved. Hopefully I’ll get around to penning some shitty book reviews and some comments on a few flicks I’ve seen recently that have been swishing around in my brain. Until then, enjoy the tunes.
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – English Oceans (ATO): The departure of third guitarist and praised songwriter Jason Isbell in 2007 could have read as death knell for skeptics, particularly after 2011’s Go-Go Boots, but in this reviewer’s opinion Isbell’s sputtering fourth solo outing paled in comparison with founding member Mike Cooley’s acoustic set of DBT originals, a sign that he and Patterson Hood are and always have been the soul of this Southern rock troupe. Trading vocals and writing credits one song after the other like never before, Cooley inadvertently shows up Hood by demonstrating his superior songwriting skills, kicking off with a horn-emblazoned parable of the boss you think’s so dumb giving his wife Viagra rides. His casual dominance manifests itself in great guitar licks and photographable yarns, like the chorus-less account of a father losing his daughter to her own marriage (“Primer Coat”) or the collapsing country riff underpinning his truck ride with Jimmy Page. Props, of course, to Hood as well, who counters Cooley’s heat with cool ballads (“When Walter Went Crazy” is in particular a standout). So let’s hope Mike hangs around; Lord knows he could make it on his own. A MINUS
HARD WORKING AMERICANS – Hard Working Americans (Melvin): Todd Snider culls players from various bands to form a tenuous ‘supergroup’ for a set of classic covers. Comprised of guitarist Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), keyboardist Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi), bassist Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), and drummer Duane Trucks (King Lincoln)—because apart from Widespread Panic, those are bands you’ve heard of, right?—Snider might retain his common sense, working-man blues ethos, but the hard rock clash overrides his scratchy singing, and sometimes that heaviness isn’t a suitable vessel for the rage and contempt they hold for the Big Men above (see Will Kimbrough’s “Another Train” for evidence). But more often than not their stellar sound refresh these oldies, like the wiry guitar sleeking through “Down to the Well” or bar band karaoke of “Stomp and Holler.” Wish these good ole boys could write some originals up to par with these do-overs. A MINUS