Drive-By Truckers keep heading down the road

Sound Salvation

When you say the words "Southern Rock," the first thing that comes to mind is Lynyrd Skynyrd. Maybe if you like your rock a little more jam oriented its the Allman Bros.

Which ever band serves as your poster child for the genre, it seems as the idea of Southern Rock is based almost solely in the 1970s. It's all rebel flags and new South angst.

If you think that way you are missing out on some great music. In the past five years or so, Southern Rock has seen an amazing revival at the hands of bands like My Morning Jacket and the Kings of Leon.

But perhaps no band has played the siren song of the South as the Drive-By Truckers. While MMJ and Kings of Leon have slowly skewed their music away from the grit and twang, the Truckers aren't just exploring what it means to be Southern, but embracing it. After releasing a few albums that showed promise, the group put out the amazingly ambitious and equally successful Southern Rock Opera, a two-disc concept album roughly based on the life and times of the aforementioned Skynyrd.

The album declared Southern Rock a viable and perhaps culturally important genre, an idea furthered by 2003's Decoration Day and 2004's The Dirty South, which featured ass-kicking songs, like "The John Henry Died," and heartbreaking ballads.

Now the Truckers are back with A Blessing and a Curse, the bands first release written in the studio rather than on the road. The album isn't a cohesive unit like the three previous albums, but it is still full of reasons why the band might be the most important working in the hard rock idiom.

"Feb. 14," is an interesting track. At once a hard charging rocker and a ballad of trying to fix a wrecked relationship, the song combines almost all the elements that make the Drive-By Truckers successful -- strong story, Southern-fried guitar solos and lonesome sounding vocals.

"Aftermath USA," is a tale of the true South. It doesn't hold back punches on the foibles -- alcohol abuse, crystal meth, credit card debt -- often plaguing rural America. But at the same time it's message is that of optimism with a refrain of "I'll get around to breaking even one of these days."

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