Album Reviews: The Dirty South by Drive-By Truckers4 stars out of 5
Swigging Jack and grinning like demons, the Drive By Truckers have done it again: another brilliant album, with a coupla changeups in the mixture too. Now don't set down the Schlitz and point your finger at me: This is not hyperbole. Although they no longer spit out half-masticated joke tunes like "The President's Penis is Missing" and "Zoloft," their new style rocks harder and really crawls up deep inside you.
The Dirty South, much as the title suggests, is an album revolving around broken spirits, squalid heroism, and dead giants. My favorite tune is "Puttin' People on the Moon," in which a drug dealer has to take on a crap job at Wal-Mart after his wife dies of cancer; Patterson Hood sings bravely at the top of his range, and ejects real venom when he calls politicians "lying sacks of shit." But dig Jason Isbell's eerie "Danko/Manuel," a tribute to late members of The Band, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, which magnifies the silent spaces between verses and ends up sounding like the sort of underground-folk thing Gillian Welch used to do so well. Or maybe my real favorite tune is Mike Cooley's clutch-grindin', pickup-soakin' opener "Where the Devil Don't Stay," which ends with this astonishing couplet: "The only blood that's any cleaner is the blood that's blue or greener / Without either you get meaner and the blood you gave gives you away."
Three great songwriters and fourteen new songs (well, hardcore fans will quibble over the new version of "Lookout Mountain") add up to the perfect soundtrack for highway driving or whiskey-bottle introspection. Plus you'll learn a little something about Carl Perkins and Buford Pusser. Strongly recommended. - Mark Desrosiers