Release Date: Jan 22, 2008
Record label: New West
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Drive-By Truckers leader Patterson Hood wrote in a post on the band's website that 2007 "was supposed to be our year of taking it easy," but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way, and that's a good thing for everyone concerned. The songwriting bug seems to have bit the Drive-By Truckers sometime after the release of 2006's A Blessing and a Curse, and while that album was a bit short on top-shelf material (at least compared to the band's work since Southern Rock Opera), Brighter Than Creation's Dark is a dazzling return to form, delivering some of their finest, most eclectic, and most mature music to date. The album's strength is a pleasant surprise given the departure of guitarist and tunesmith Jason Isbell, who had become one of the group's most interesting writers, but founding members Hood and Mike Cooley have risen to the occasion with some excellent new songs, and bassist Shonna Tucker (who's also Isbell's ex-wife) steps forward as a composer and lead vocalist on this set with three great songs about broken hearts and the stuff that follows in their wake.
The departure of promising songwriter Jason Isbell – who obviously wasn’t saving all his best material for his solo debut – doesn’t appear to be as devastating to the Drive-By Truckers as some might’ve guessed. Turns out what they lost in a shit-hot guitarist they’ve gained in a singing bassist, Shonna Tucker, who is Isbell’s ex. Mike Cooley steps up with some much-needed light contrast to Patterson Hood’s darker lyrical impulses, which are well represented here, sometimes with touching poignancy and others with blunt force trauma.
Eight albums strong and still ripping jams, Drive-By Truckers' Brighter Than Creation’s Dark carries on with a legion of southern-rock anthems. Nineteen songs long -- not unlike past releases, like the epic Southern Rock Opera -- Mike Cooley is still mumbling and snarling like Mick Jagger with the same gritty feeling that’s carried Drive-By Truckers close to twelve years along, nailing it on “Three Dimes Down” and “Self Destructive Zones. ” John Neff’s expert, dreamy pedal steel and Shonna Tucker’s soothing, pitch-perfect harmony -- somewhere between Lucinda Williams and Neko Case -- make Brighter another solid entry in the band's catalog.
The Drive-By Truckers create albums that sprawl, epics not consumed one song at a time but full listening experiences that arc like a premium-cable-channel series. At 19 songs and more than 75 minutes, Brighter Than Creation's Dark just barely slouches to excess, mainly because it finds the Athens, Ga., quartet at its most tuneful. The upheaval associated with losing guitarist/singer-songwriter Jason Isbell in 2007 has served them well.