Drive-by Truckers
The Big To-Do



by BigHans USER (113 Reviews)
March 17th, 2010 | 10 replies

Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The least memorable record in eleven years for a usually stellar and consistent band.

There’s something inherently interesting and consistent about the Drive-By Truckers. Always hovering on the cusp of stardom, the Truckers have established themselves as indie darlings over the years, steadily delivering the goods across five consecutive stellar albums in the 00s. Brandishing a three guitar and three lead singer attack, the Truckers have proven astoundingly prolific at melding several non- traditional coinciding genres like Hard Rock, Southern Rock, Country, and Grunge into an Alternative Rock/Country hybrid that gleans admiration from hipsters and proud rednecks alike. Proudly waving the flag of the Dirty South (their breakthrough was a two disc concept album about Lynyrd Skynyrd) while somehow captivating the attention of traditional urban snobs, The Truckers have expertly wove their way through musical legitimacy by riding an assault of clever narratives stamped with melodic hooks, delivered with authorized Southern sincerity.

With the release of “The Big To-Do,” it is difficult to envision the fortunes of the Drive-By Truckers considerably changing. Their new label is more established, the album is leaner and more concise than previous efforts, and the emphasis is higher on rock and lower on country, all ingredients that could theoretically lead to heightened mainstream acknowledgment. Perhaps in an effort to align themselves with a brighter limelight, The Truckers are stripped down here, forgoing the grandiose, quasi epic reaches of the past in favor of more traditional rock proclivities. The good news is “The Big To-Do” is consistently slightly above average enough to satiate their current fan base. The bad news is it’s their worst record in 11 years, and is unlikely to carry them to the next level.

The unrelenting vibe of “The Big To-Do” is that while the record is competent and only a small portion is skip-worthy, it lacks the presence of anything resembling staggering, a concept in no shortage on their previous five records. There are moments of near greatness, such as the driving melodic hooks of album opener “Daddy Learned to Fly” and lead single “Birthday Boy,” the bone chilling hymn buildup of “You Got Another,” and the alcohol worshipping “The Fourth Night of My Drinking,” yet none of these would fall into the top five on any of their watershed records. There are redeemable moments on the downtrodden working stiff anthem “This F*cking Job,” the rollicking 50s-esque “Get Downtown,” and the breezy “Sante Fe,” yet the resounding theme resembles nothing more than merely above average songwriting. Perhaps the primary catalyst here is the dominating presence of co-frontman Patterson Hood, who despite being the most recognizable member is a lesser songwriter than co-founder Mike Cooley, who inexplicably takes a backseat with only three entries on the record. Possessing a stronger sense of melody, more accessible voice, and a much sharper wit than Hood, Cooley is responsible for probably three quarters of the band’s truly great songs, and once again contributes the album’s strongest moment in the tawdry “young man doesn’t know what to do with a prostitute” themed “Birthday Boy.” For his part, Hood has always been competent yet just short of great, and his predominant presence mirrors the passable nature of the record.

With another album slated for late 2010, perhaps “The Big To-Do” can be labeled as a slight misstep for the Truckers. For a band that has consistently delivered at an impressive and prolific rate, the weight of expectations is heightened, and perhaps a slightly above average showing can be viewed as worse than it actually is. Neither startling nor wretched, “The Big To-Do” and its seminal moments are worth the price of admission for any moderate fan, but this is the first time in a decade the Truckers have put their stamp on a recording that is not borderline essential at the least. For a more worthwhile analysis of the Drive-By Truckers, check out either “Southern Rock Opera,” “The Dirty South,” or “Decoration Day,” and it will be easier to understand their hype.


Birthday Boy
Daddy Learned to Fly
You Got Another
The Fourth Night of My Drinking

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user ratings (26)

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 17th 2010


Album Rating: 3.0

Album is slightly above meh, kind of like the review. I struggle when writing about average to borderline average albums. I'm also dissapointed as I'm a huge Truckers fan boy.

Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2010


review's good, hans

yeah, borderline albums are always the hardest to review.

March 17th 2010


Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks. I wrote it pretty quickly, usually I spend more time but album just doesn't blow me away like I hoped it would. That said, they are touring with Tom Petty and I will be all over that, they are fantastic live.

March 17th 2010


Album Rating: 3.5

the a.v club seemed to like this... I'll eventually check it out.

March 19th 2010


okay Mr. BigHans I just bought this Compact Disc (really cool artwork it has) and if you happen to be wrong I will cut your throat. By that I mean I'll write a counter review that's totally better than your review. You've been warned mister!

March 20th 2010


Album Rating: 3.0

Their artwork is always great. Curious to know what you think. Band is criminally underrated on Sputnik.

March 20th 2010


Great review Hans, missed this the other day.

March 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 3.0

Man this band is unknown here.

March 30th 2012


This Fucking Job is great

March 9th 2014


I'm surprised how little attention this band gets on here, put out a lot of quality albums over the years.

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