A Blessing and a Curse

Drive-By Truckers. <i> New West</i>

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Pity those poor Drive-By Truckers, stuck in a rut, making one great album after another. The band’s latest isn’t a towering masterpiece along the lines of their 2001 breakthrough, Southern Rock Opera, but its stinging vignettes of down-and-dirty living have the resonance of a great short-story collection. Amid ornery guitars that cross the Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd, scruffy singers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley lace their woeful tales with plenty of mordant humor and vivid details, transcending obvious white-trash clichés. The footstomping “Aftermath USA” seems to be a jokey saga of excess, only to veer off into images of blood in the sink and crystal meth in the bathtub. Elsewhere, the eerie “World of Hurt” closes the show by meditating on suicide, arguing it’s better to hang on and feel pain than quit—a conclusion all the more compelling for the angst that precedes it.

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