I'm new to this forum and to the music and I've appreciated the many suggestions of essential recordings, posted on another thread, for someone like me who wants to know more and listen to more Americana/roots/alt-country.
I visited an independent record shop in Porthmadog, north Wales, called Cob Records the other day (sadly, one of the few we have locally).
As I was browsing, an album cover took my eye: A Blessing and a Curse. I was sure that someone had recommended that I listen to the Drive-by Truckers and I went for it, I bought the CD on spec. I really enjoyed it. The lyrics are beautifully powerful.
After reading a review by Mark Deming who said that the album 'sounds like a collection of individual pieces rather than a coherent and organic whole', I got the impression that the album's title could also be an apt description of the album's quality in the reviewer's opinion.
Personally, I feel there is coherence running through the record but I was wandering what forum readers thought about this album, which is about halfway on their discography timeline, and whether the album is an okay halfway house or whether the words of one of the songs is true about the whole album:
"But there's more here than meets the eye
The real story is under the surface"
I'd appreciate your thoughts because, I'm not sure where to go next with this band, backwards or forwards along their timeline.
It is saying something important about how great the Truckers are that you picked what is probably their weakest album, and it would be an impressive achievement for just about anyone else.
Their best album, in most people's opinion, is Southern Rock Opera. It is a truly coherent masterpiece, weaving together the politics, culture, history and music of the American South. It is ostensibly a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd, but it is equally about George Wallace, the relationship between Ronnie Van Zant and Neil Young, the nature of Southern identity, and the cultural importance of the images connected to Southern rock, both positive and negative. A decade later, the album still blows me away every time I hear it. The only warning is that you need to be quite familiar with recent American history to appreciate a lot of it.
The DBT's have a good few albums out now and lots of different opinions about which is best. Most fans however would agree that A Blessing And A Curse is one of the weaker efforts, So , if you like it, you're in for a real treat when you hear the rest ! For me, the best two tracks on that one are the Mike Cooley songs, Space City and Gravitiy's Gone.
After that i'd recommend :
1/ Brighter Than Creations Dark - a double album with a more stripped back "country" flavour.
2/ The Dirty South _-great storytelling on this one and superb efforts by the main 3 writers that the band had at the time ; Patterson hood , Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell
3/ Decoration Day - ditto !
I don't have as much love for Southern Rock Opera as many of their fans do but it's still a great album.
Anyway - Have Fun !
I personally would recommend The Dirty South, and Decoration Day. In my opinion this is the Truckers at the peak of their songwriting power. Isbell, Cooley and Hood paint beautifully desperate, tragic, and maniac portraits of America. This is also the perfect balance of ballads, and rockers on these albums. If you really dig these albums and want to dig deeper then I would suggest Isbell's solo work, especially Here We Rest. If you want a raw more "Hillbilly Underground" vibe check out Ganstabilly, and Pizza Dileverance. These albums are a tongue and check at times but still hold some awesome songwriting, for example "The Living Bubba" on Ganstabilly. Finally if you want a more challenging album look to Go-Go Boots, while not their strongest work, it really shows them stretching out. These are not all their albums, but the ones I listen to the most. In the words of Patterson Hood no matter which one you get "Play it loud"
Thank you guys for your thoughts - I really appreciate them.
Like I said, I bought A Blessing and a Curse on spec and I guess the paucity of comments reflect the album's 'mediocrity'. If that's 'mediocrity', however, it'll do me! I agree with Steviedal, by the way, in that 'Gravity's Gone' is probably the best track on the album but I keep on hearing something new every time I listen.
That said, boy was I in for a surprise when I listened to The Dirty South for the first time. I know, I know, I should have been listening to this stuff sooner but at least I'm listening now!
I love the mythology of this music more than anything. I want to go to the 'Dirty South' but I'm scared of getting on the wrong side of 'The Boys from Alabama'. For now, I'll let the folklore of the DBT' songs take me there - it's no less exciting and no less frightening...
Dirty South is a great truckers album .May I suggest Live from Austin "Austin city limits" CD/DVD bang for the buck this awesome .The performance is perfect as any I've ever seen.Also don't forget solo work from Patterson Hood & Jason Isbell.II highly recommend" Here we rest " /Jason Isbell & "Heat Lighting rumbles in the distance" by Patterson Hood. While we're here you ever listen to Lucero? Not the opera group. You NEED TO ,you can thank me later