Drive-By Truckers

English Oceans

Written by: PP on 25/02/2014 22:06:21

Drive-By Truckers have been reliably active since their debut album "Gangstabilly" in 1998, having released a new album at least every couple of years or so. Their description as a southern rock / alternative country band has never stricken me as particularly appealing, hence I've steadily passed on their albums despite noticing the relative frequency of their name popping up on in the musical landscape since then. That said, I've decided to make an exception with their tenth album "English Oceans"; it suggests I probably should've checked them out a little earlier. Yet here we are, so consider this album my collective introduction of Drive-By Truckers for those of you not in the know already.

"English Oceans" is a charming listen given the southern, Alabama-style swagger that their vocalist sings with. His soulful and worry-free delivery has a sense of Americana to it, which might lead you towards vocalists like Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem) and perhaps even Bruce Springsteen on many songs, whereas elsewhere the vocals follow a spoken-word style pattern much like The Hold Steady's Craig Finn (particularly on "Shit Shots Count"). Musically, the songs are inoffensive, suitable for the mainstream radio, but reek a little too much of North American spirit, which partially explains why they've never reached similar heights of popularity on this side of the pond. Nonetheless, these simplistic alternative/country songs are fitted with a sense of warmth to them, which brings forth their charming feeling that I mentioned earlier. It's not difficult to believe that vocalist Patterson Hood, together with his collaborators Mike Cooley and Jay Gonzales, love playing music inspired by the southern culture as a whole, so convincing is their expression throughout the record.

Still, one could hope a little more edge, even if this is arena-sized rock music in its core essence. It's a little too safe instrumentally to keep you entertained for weeks in a row, but then again, this isn't an album geared towards music enthusiasts rather than people who want to lie on a hay-field underneath the burning sun chilling out and listening to country music on a big stage. But even when taking that into consideration, the second half of the album is a lot weaker than the first few songs otherwise indicate.

Download: When He's Gone, Primer Coat
For the fans of: My Morning Jacket, Crazy Horse, Ryan Adams, Neil Young
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Release date 04.03.2014
ATO Records

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