Early in their career, Drive-By Truckers made southern rock mean. Fifteen years of road-wear and numerous lineup changes have distilled some of that piss and vinegar a little bit, but these buzzards still craft some of the loudest, toughest hard-luck anthems and boozers’ ballads around. English Oceans, the Georgia band’s 10th release, proves DBT is still drinking ’shine straight from the source.
Dual frontmen Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood split the songwriting and singing down the middle on this release, a welcome change from the last two Hood-heavy releases. Not that Hood can’t hold his own as a captivating presence—check out the eight-minute album closer “Grand Canyon,” a swelling tribute to the band’s recently-deceased merch manager. But Cooley’s sardonic wit and old-boy grit on songs like the snarling “Shit Shots Count” and the shuffling serenade “Natural Light” balance things nicely. Nothing strikes as exceptional on this record compared to some earlier releases, and certain songs like “Hanging On” simply sound uninspired. Still, Truckers fans new and old will find plenty of believable tunes here to get them through those long hauls.