The Drive-By Truckers, one of America's favorite cult bands, takes a shot at the mainstream with a musically and lyrically expansive effort. Working again with David Barbe (Sugar, Son Volt), who further sharpens the band's sonic edge, tunes such as "Feb. 14" and "Aftermath USA" are replete with Barbe's trademark soundwork of snaggletooth guitar and dense instrumentation.
In terms of pure wordplay, the Truckers eschew the conceptual Southern provincialism of their previous work, pursuing a universal vibe that encompasses classic romanticism and working class blues. The songs are like 11 short stories rather than chapters in a single lengthy novel.
Old-line fans need not fear, however, 'cause Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell are triple-threat songwriters and songs like "A World Of Hurt" prove that there's more than enough twang and tears here to satisfy even the most diehard listener. With an embarrassing wealth of talent and musical chemistry, the Drive-By Truckers roll out a bigger, broader sound without sacrificing their endearing charm.
This is more of a lateral move than a great leap forward, the band satisfying its core audience even while trying to elevate its vision to the next level.