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Drive-By Truckers: English Oceans

Literary southern rockers punch smart on tenth album.

Maybe it's rougher than the world knows inside Drive-By Truckers' Athens, Georgia HQ, where the latest line-up change leaves Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley leading a streamlined quartet.

It seems they know what they’re doing too, because from the Exile On Main St swagger of Shit Shots Count in, the balance between downbeat emotion and down-home rocking is back. ‘Put your cigarette out and your hat back on/And don’t mess up which is which,’ is Cooley’s opening advice, sly word-play Hood later applies to a politician whose ‘integrity was phoney an’ totally Nixonian’.

Organ and harmonies signal rest for a troubled soul that may even be Hood’s in Hanging On’s biography of a drifting country singer. And amid Hearing Jimmy Loud’s heavy honky-tonk rock and When Walter Went Crazy’s drinking and doom is a girl ‘plain as primer paint’ who, like many here and most other places, gets by as best she can. A satisfying return.