Economic hard times, dead-ended lives, everyday struggles and the alcohol-fueled delusions we conjure to escape them - that's the stuff the Drive-By Truckers have traded in for eight albums now.
But the timing couldn't be better for them or "The Big To-Do" (ATO) because someone has to tell it like it is. "Working this job is like a kick in the pants," Patterson Hood sings in "This -- Job." "Working this job is like a knife in the back. It ain't gettin' me further than the dump I live in. It ain't gettin' me further than my next paycheck."
It's a rant, fueled by snarling guitars and a loss of hope, that sums up a lot of lives right now and "Get Downtown," with its guitar boogie beating back the "unemployment blues," sums up many, many more.
"The Big To-Do" isn't as ambitious as the accurately named "Southern Rock Opera" or the expansive "The Dirty South." But the Truckers' vision is downsized skillfully, focusing on storytelling, especially in the ripped-from-the-headlines murderous tale "The Wig He Made Her Wear" and the dark, deflated dreaminess of "The Flying Wallendas."
Of course, they also throw in a bit of aspirational beauty - in a pair of songs featuring bassist Shonna Tucker's lovely vocals, the poignant ballad "You Got Another" and the rocking "I Told You So." That gets us through all the tough talk, told in Springsteen-ian detail with Tom Petty-ish heartbreaker flourishes. And the guitars help, too.
THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
"The Big To-Do"
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Realistic alt-country for everyone