by Kyle McCraw
One thing is clear: Drive-By Truckers is a band that believes in the album as a format. “Brighter than Creations Dark” is more than a collection of songs. They are songs that make sense together and flow into each other organically. After the soft, mournful “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife” has created almost too somber of a mood, the loose rock of “Dimes Down” is there to pick things up again. And that kind of balance is crucial in an album that clocks in at over seventy-five minutes.
The Truckers are still refining their southern rock sound, which has as much to do with Neil Young and Crazy Horse as it does with Skynyrd. There’s a lot of steel guitar this time out as well as a little banjo, and “Lisa’s Birthday” is very much a country song – not that there’s anything wrong with it. And in the absence of songwriter Jason Isbell, bassist Shonna Tucker has stepped up to write three songs. “I’m Sorry Huston” is the best of the three, and is one of the best cuts on the album.
The songs primarily deal with lives gone wrong. Ring leader Patterson Hood even gets into the Iraq war with “The Man I Shot” and “The Home Front” — one dealing with a soldier killing an enemy, the other with a wife waiting for her husband to return home. With these and other songs of death, drug abuse and suicide, one might expect the album to be depressing, but there is a thread of optimism that seems to run through the album and is echoed in the title, “Brighter than Creation’s Dark.” It also helps to a have a simple song called “Bob”– a fun couple of minutes from Mike Cooley that really lightens the load about halfway through the proceedings with lines like “Bob ain’t light in the loafers. He might kneel, but he never bends over.”
If anything, “Brighter than Creation’s Dark” might be a little long, but I wouldn’t know what to cut if I had to. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close.