Having successfully usurped the southern rock throne abandoned since the first incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Drive-By Truckers have come through with another thematically-cohesive record of hearty, engaging rock and roll while spreading the songwriting duties through the band in a true showing of rock democracy. The Dirty South is their second record for New West, following 2003’s Decoration Day; their breakthrough record, the double-disc Southern Rock Opera, was picked up by Lost Highway following its independent release, even if it did drop like a rock and quickly put the band back into free agent status.

The Dirty South puts the group’s three-guitar attack back on display, behind muscular rockers like the “The Day John Henry Died” and lead single “Never Gonna Change,” revolving around a thematic core regarding the social and developmental struggles of the former Confederate states in post-Civil War America. It’s full-bodied, unflinching rock, not afraid to mine southern myths or namedrop decidedly southern figures (see Carl Perkins and Buford Pusser, who both pop up in song titles, along with The Band’s Rick Danko and Richard Manuel). Before you settle on that Velvet Revolver album, think about picking up any Drive-By Truckers record, because you’re not likely to find a more accomplished and engrossing hard rock experience.

(New West Records)

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