Drive-By Truckers - English Oceans
If there’s one band that can be relied on to deliver a solid alt.country rock album then it’s Drive By Truckers. Now 18 years on from their debut album they’re still the go-to guys; in fact English Oceans may just be their most coherent album yet. Bandleaders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley aren’t the types to do things lightly and a newly tweaked line-up - Shonna Tucker and John Neff left and were quickly replaced - has helped keep things fresh and may even have improved the relationship between rhythm section and Hood and Cooley's vocals and guitars.
Recorded in just 13 days and with an urgency that transfers itself to the sound, the rapid beat on ‘When He’s Gone’ gets the blood moving while ‘Pauline Hawkins’ keeps the tempo high with winding guitar and Hammond organ, before breaking into a fine guitar jam; it’s a genuine standout. DBT have never been scared of expressing an opinion and ‘The Part Of Him’ continues in that tradition (“He was an absolute piece of shit to tell the truth / But he never told the truth to me”), though it doesn’t descend into lecture, its recurring melody keeps things light. The more rootsy 'Made Up English Oceans' is incessantly rhythmic; 'Primer Coat' is tuneful and controlled, and 'When Walter Went Crazy' is a softly delivered tale of mental illness. Closer ‘Grand Canyon’, a touching tribute to their late merch man Craig Lieske, just proves that English Oceans manages to concentrate the essence of DBT, retaining their passion and personal approach in one essential package.