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Drive-By Truckers

The Big To-Do – 2010 (ATO)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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The most significant factors in the Drive-By Truckers' new album were the band's 2008 spartan and countryesque "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" and their involvement as backing band on Booker T's Grammy-nominated "Potato Hole" album. Between the relative tranquility of "Creation's Dark," its attendant tour and the inspiration of working with the legendary Stax organmaster, the Truckers were itching to turn the volume knobs full right and shake down Athens' loose plaster.

As a result, "The Big To-Do" is the most consistently rock-based album in the Truckers' long and storied catalog.

The opening Crazy-Horse-as-Southern-rockers blast of Daddy Learned to Fly establishes the Truckers' template of janglingly blustery guitars, a delicate yet sturdy keyboard presence and a dextrously powerful rhythm section. The subtle moments when the Truckers intermittently dial back (The Fourth Night of My Drinking, the slinky The Wig He Made Her Wear) are brief and not particularly quiet respites from the album's visceral jackslap (Birthday Boy, Drag the Lake Charlie, After the Scene Dies). Even Shonna Tucker's gorgeously expansive You Got Another begins like a Neil Young piano ballad as envisioned by Emmylou Harris, veering into bolder territory through Jay Gonzalez's mournful B3, the noisy triple guitar tangle of Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and John Neff and the shambling but purposeful pulse of Tucker and drummer Brad Morgan.

As always, the Truckers' sonic tumult underpins some of music's most cinematically evocative lyrics; the true crime reporting of The Wig He Made Her Wear, the stripper's wisdom in Cooley's Birthday Boy, the economic realities of This F***ing Job. Where "Creation's Dark" was subdued and sparse, "The Big To-Do" is loud and relentless, a continuation of the Truckers' trend to never do the same thing consecutively unless, of course, you count brilliance and consistency.