It would be misleading to review the politically-charged American Band (out September 30 on ATO Records) without exploring its political implications. This is an album that bristles with the anger of a band of white, male, middle-aged Southerners—supposedly a core constituency of a candidate whose vision for America this material vehemently rejects. Yet the album never mentions a candidate nor an impending election. Instead, the urgency of the music comes from its sense of common humanity—the humanity of those written about, the humanity of the writers, singers and players. These songs aren’t broadsides or diatribes; they are rooted in specifics of detail, yet expansive in their implications about a country perpetually in conflict. It is an album of border war (“Ramon Casiano”), race war (“What It Means”), culture war (“Filthy and Fried,” “Once They Banned Imagine”) and the random warfare in the halls of our schools (“Guns of Umpqua”). There’s a sense throughout that whatever has been happening has been happening forever, and will happen again. As usual, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley share songwriting duties, with the former tending toward the more reflective and the latter toward harder rocking, but they also share a unified vision here. This isn’t one of those topical albums that will seem dated once the election is over. It ranks with the band’s best, and with the year’s best.