Album Review

Brent Andermann

The Big To Do ends with a whimper.

The sonic ideas that make up The Big To Do should add up to a great alterna-southern rock record. They just don’t come together, and that’s disappointing.

Drive By Truckers are so close to starting up an Americana revival like we saw in the early nineties with Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown. The wail and driving static riffs of “Birthday Boy” are sweeter than the words of wisdom that Mike Cooley imparts about experience and women. It’s that experience that mostly carries and provides the backbone of the record. Honestly, without it, it would be too easy to write it off as just another southern soaked solo showdown.

There are plenty of wonderful musicians in the genre, but none active in the scene today have come as close to gathering up songs that are: A) An actual album (i.e. cohesive effort) and B) something beyond the limitations of the genre. The reason they’re not quite there? Filler. For examples see: “This Fucking Job” (as rad as the short solo breaks are, this song is forgettable), “Get Downtown” (An obvious B-Side that could easily be stuffed inside a Bob Dylan/Ryan Adams B-sides and rarities), and “It’s Gonna Be I Told You So,” ( A country/Replacements-esque drive that goes nowhere and becomes a nothing diddy that well...goes nowhere).

The sexy solo that sneaks into “The Wig He Made Her Wear” and the awe inspiring mid-tempo duet/ballad “You Got Another” more than make up for these missteps, but the defining moments where Drive By Truckers shimmer and shine with a bravado not yet heard from them are all on the back end of the record. The lap guitar picking and sonic squall of “Sante Fe” and “The Flying Wallendas” remind us of what a band like this can be, and that is something unabashedly beautiful in its simplicity and devotion to the “honest to God” truth of a sound that comes from somewhere only their own. That’s why the closing track, “Eyes Like Glue,” will most likely leave you feeling cheated. After a great build up, The Big To Do, ends with a whimper.