Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Drive-by Truckers and new to me Jason Isbell

I wanted to be more timely about reviewing "Brighter Than Creations Dark" by the Drive-by Truckers. It was released on January 22 but I did not get around to downloading it until later in the week. However, I was further delayed in writing the review because I also downloaded "Sirens of the Ditch" by former Drive-by Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell.

I listened to all 19 songs on "Brighter Than Creations Dark" and I was planning on listening to it again before writing the review but I wanted listened to "Sirens of the Ditch". I liked Mr. Isbell's release so much I just got back to the Drive-by Truckers today.

When I read on Paterson Hood's blog that Jason Isbell had left DBT I was a little disapointed since my favorite DBT songs have been written and sung by Mr. Isbell. Turns out I did not have to worry. "Sirens of the Ditch" is a real good showcase for Jason Isbell's talent and was produced by DBT's Paterson Hood and guest appearances by other Truckers like Shonna Tucker.

Since this is his solo disc Jason Hood sings every song and most of the songs are guitar based. I downloaded the album from iTunes and I do not have a track by track listing of the musicians but I think that Mr Isbell plays piano on Chicago Promenade. If you are a fan of the Drive-by Truckers you probably have already picked this record up. If you are a fan of well crafted music then you should get this as soon as possible. This is a whole CD filled with songs like "Outfit" and "Declaration Day"

Which brings us to the Drive-by Truckers "Brighter than Creations Dark". I have been waiting for the DBT to put out something that moves me as much as "Southern Rock Opera". While I have liked some songs on the albums that followed none of them have not grabbed me the the "Southern Rock Opera" did the first time I heard it. In fact "Let there be Rock" has the highest play count on my iPod.

For the new recording Jason Isbell has been replaced by steel player John Neff and Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham. John Neff has played lots of DBT songs and Spooner Oldham has played with just about everyone. I saw Mr. Oldham play with Bob Dylan in 1980 on the Slow Train Coming/Saved tour which is probably my all time favorite show. Shonna Tucker has also stepped up and has written 4 songs that she also sings on.

Brighter than Creations Dark is probably the closest that DBT has come to recreating the magic of Southern Rock Opera. The new release is more consistent and has a fuller sound. As always Patterson Hood provides the autobiographical songs while Mike Cooley provides the Springsteen like character songs. I will have to listen to Ms. Tuckers songs more before I can properly define them.

The Drive-by Truckers have 3 song writers and singers so it make sense that Brighter than Creations Dark has 19 songs. The addition of Mr. Neff and Oldham insures a strong performace on all the songs. The Drive-by Truckers have a sound that could be described as an American South version of the Rolling Stones. They can rock hard with a twangy edge but can move into the sound of Merle Haggard. I hate to categorize any music but DBT is alt-americana.

I was counting the days for this release and I was not disappointed. I may have listened to Jason Isbell's solo album more but I am sure the Drive-by Truckers will catch up. I have a lot of other new stuff on my iPod but it is going to have to wait a couple more days before I listen to it.

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