Thursday, February 13, 2014

Drive-By Truckers: "English Oceans" (album review)

Some things get finer with age: wine, cheese (to a point), and Drive-By Truckers.  On March 4th the veteran indie Southern rockers will release their twelfth album, English Oceans.

It doesn't take long for the two sides of Drive-By Truckers sound to establish themselves.

The record's opening track, "Shit Shots Count", is some of the most polished, anthemic rock that they've ever laid down.  "Hearing Johnny Loud" is an amped-up country rocker.

The exquisitely-penned lyrics and deadpan delivery of "Primer Coat" should serve as a template for how to write a country song.  The full-on country lament of "Hanging On" is augmented by an unexpected tinkle that you'd normally associate with Mercury Rev.  It's seems destined that more than a few elbows will be bent to the piano-powered wild west saloon ditty "Natural Light".

A couple of moments are reminiscent of Canadian music heavyweights.  There's a Neil Young (with Crazy Horse of course) type of guitar grind to "When He's Gone".  "First Air of Autumn" could be a straight-laced cover of a Gordon Lightfoot tune.

A hallmark of the band is there slow-paced songs about family disfunction.  You can add the tale of "When Walter Went Crazy" to the every-growing list.

Everything converges on the nearly 8-minute closing track "Grand Canyon".  The song's sound is as vast and sprawling as the attraction itself.

At this stage, you pretty much know what you're going to get with a new Drive-By Truckers album.  However, they are still managing to refine and perfect their craft.  The songwriting and musicianship seems to get better and better, and English Oceans is no exception to that trend.

Best tracks: "Shit Shots Count", "Primer Coat"

Track listing for English Oceans:
  • Shit Shots Count
  • When He's Gone
  • Primer Coat
  • Pauline Hawkins
  • Made Up English Oceans
  • The Part of Him
  • Hearing Johnny Loud
  • Til He's Dead Or Rises
  • Hanging On
  • Natural Light
  • When Walter Went Crazy
  • First Air of Autumn
  • Grand Canyon

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