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CD Review: Drive-By Truckers – A Blessing and A Curse

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I’ve heard Drive-By Truckers mentioned a few times before and have wondered about their sound, so when El Bicho passed this one off to me I thought it might be an alright recording. Not so much, I think as I write this, not that it’s a bad album or that they’re a bad band, it’s just that they don’t move me. They do have their highlights but they are too few and far between for me to fully enjoy this album.

Track one “Feb 14,” opens with a good beat and heavy guitar twang, sounds like it could lead to something; then we hear the lead vocalist and from there the song starts to lose me. The title has potential but this one falls short for me and is now another reason not to dig said date.

The third track “Easy On Yourself” is the first number that caught my attention. The guitar work is solid and the drums are rocking, the lyrics and vocals come together well here, and the vocalists on this track I like a whole lot better than the guy on “Feb 14.”

Tracks four and five are two more highlights from the eleven on this disk, so along with track nine that brings my grand total to four. Kind of says something right there. “Aftermath USA” is an Eagles-inspired number complete with harmony background vocals. The lyrics and vocals are okay but just don’t get me going, even with lines about “crystal meth in the bathtub.”

“Goodbye” is a slow, country number with a steady beat to keep it moving and the guitar soars once again here. The use of curses such as “God damn it/I swear to you I tried” again just don’t work for me and sound forced. Oh and trust me I’m not against cussing and cursing in songs of any sort. But for most bands I dig, these phrases and words are used to highlight a point and usually come across well, yet here I just don’t dig the vocal delivery of it.

Jumping to track nine and what to me is the best track on this album “Space City,” a solid country tune with good, strong lyrics, acoustic guitars and a solid drum thump. “It is a slow tune that’s hits hard, carried well by its vocals and simple yet heartfelt lyrics, which is why this number is the band’s shining moment for me. Maybe it’s because I’m reminded of Cowboy Nation on this track, with its honest, straightforward country, back-to-basics sound.

From nine we move to ten, the title track “A Blessing and A Curse” and what starts out to be a damn good song (see there it is, told you I’d use it too. I used it to highlight the fact that this track could have saved the entire album for me). The drums kick this one off and are quickly followed by good guitar playing and a solid bass drive. They kick it up a few notches and we expect to them fly. For a solid minute and fifteen seconds I was into this tune, heavily thinking that this CD was going to kick ass in its final three songs, but it was not to be so.

As soon as the lead singer put his mouth to the mic I was done. The band continues to rock behind him but the vocal mixture of Glenn Frey meets Perry Farrell just doesn’t jive with me; no offense to Glenn or Perry both whom I like. Even my girlfriend (who’s a big Eagles fan) winced and this kitten’s only just recently been exposed to the country/rock sound.

The final track, “A World Of Hurt,” is a talking country blues tune about the disadvantage of suicide and how it’s not always the best option. Yet again, it just doesn’t stand out for me. Nice try though; if they can stop one of their fans from going down that road, then good for them.

The Drive-By Truckers are not a bad band and as I’ve mentioned before, they do have their moments; yet as a whole there is not too much that stands out about them or which would lead me to want to rush out and get this disk. They sound too much like what’s already out there and some of the vocals are far too close to the whole whiny vocals that are taking over modern rock. They fall just short of what seems to be their goal of outlaws of country music or “saviors of rock ‘n’ roll” as I have heard said about this band.

As for outlaw country, I’ll turn to my personal favorite and a true country musician who deserves a lot more attention than he gets, Mr. Dale Watson and for country/rock ‘n’ roll I recommend Jesse Dayton and his Road Kings. Hit their web sites to find their music. ‘nuff said.

Written by Fantasma el Rey

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Loose Rick

    I read El Bicho’s review of the Drive By Truckers’ new album “A Blessing and a Curse”. I have to say that not only are you clueless about their music, you can’t write worth a damn. Perhaps some sort of correspondence course is in order El Bicho.

    Rick Pauley
    Yukon, OK

  • http:www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I have to say that Rick is clueless about this article, because it clearly states that it was written by Fantasma el Rey, and El Bicho rarely refers to himself in the third person.

    And if I was him, I wouldn’t care about your opinion of writing skills, considering you do it in a run-on sentence and you don’t know how to use commas. Maybe a remedial English class is in order, Rick.

    Fantasma made clear what he liked and what he didn’t about the album. Where’s your review, Rick, so we can read your thoughts?

  • Rick

    My apologies to El Bicho for saying you’re clueless & can’t write.

    Fantasma, you can’t write worth a damn. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a review where the author refers to a vocalist as “that guy” or “the first guy”. Do a little research.

    El Bicho, you are just an asshole.

    Rick

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Ricky, if pointing out your lack of reading comprehension and poor writing skills makes me an asshole, then I’m guily as charged. I’m sure I’m in fine company with all the teachers who had to deal with you over the years.

    The next time I care what someone from Oklahoma thinks will be the first time. When Yukon contributes something more to the culture than Garth Brooks, please get back to us. See you at the tractor pull.