After albums that redefined Southern rock - notably Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day and Brighter Than Creation's Dark - the Truckers lost their way a little. Perhaps the departure of songwriter Jason Isbell (playing solo at Auckland's Tuning Fork, April 12) before Creation's Dark in 2008 or the distraction of other projects diluted their winning formula of hard-times stories coupled to rock and alt.country.
Though this album goes some way to confirm their reputation as one of the great American bands of the past decade, it still comes up short. They kick off in fine rambunctious style with Shit Shots Count (channelling the Stones' Exile-era), the gritty melancholy of When He's Gone and the guitar jangle of Primer Coat, but elsewhere revert to well-travelled paths and it's hard to get excited by the mid-tempo plod of Pauline Hawkins and The Part of Him. With a division of songwriting now between founders Patterson Hood (on top form with the acoustic Hanging On narrative) and Mike Cooley, the Truckers tell tough, heartfelt stories and offer lyrics to decode (Cooley's Made Up English Oceans reads like images thrown into a tumbler), but often the marriage to music doesn't quite elevate them.
Verdict: Eleven albums in from Georgia's reliables
- TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz