Real southern rock is hard to define. But this album is probably it.
Drive By Truckers have been trucking for many years now (sorry about the pun) and have reached the not insignificant milestone of their tenth album with ‘English Oceans’.
Primer Coat is a nice mid-paced rootsy rocker, the sort that you meet on albums by everyone from Richmond Fontaine to the Allman Brothers. And it’s hard to define what sets Drive By Truckers apart from other bands in the genre, but the warmth of their sound is certainly a big factor, as is the percussive piano that props up this and similar tracks on the album.
Otherwise, they have all the typical tools you’d expect from a band with their reputation – musical tightness, interweaving guitars and some organ. Plus you can see these songs being naturally stretched out in a live setting.
‘English Oceans’ is the first time that Patterson Hood has been joined by Mike Cooley on song-writing duties and the first album since Matt Patton became a permanent member. Perhaps due to these factors the songs sound more varied and mature than in the past, for example the excellent Cooley contribution Hearing Jimmy Loud, which is a little mini-epic complete with Skynyrd-esque guitar soloing.
The album, which was recorded a year ago and produced as usual by David Barbe, also experiments with non southern rock song structures, such as the gentle organ-driven Hanging On and the almost honky-tonk Natural Light.
Coming towards its close we wrap things up with a strong trio of songs. First up is pretty ballad (When Walter Went Crazy), then the Willy Vlautin influenced shuffle (First Air of Autumn) finishing with potential anthem (Grand Canyon) – beautiful lyrics on this final song about life, love and landscape.
Fortunately Drive By Truckers are including Ireland on their short European tour (10 May, Vicar Street) as they add this latest set of quality songs to their repertoire. And we hope many of our readers will also make the trip.