Review Summary: Road House Rock
If you’ve seen the movie “Road House” you know what I mean when describing something as “dusty.” It’s that overtone of gin-soaked doors, dirty-as-hell desert windows, endless highways littered with cheap beer cans, and most importantly, f*cking Sam Elliott’s mustache. Jeff Healy (RIP) was the official house band where Pat Swayze (RIP Hard) kicked major goon ass at the Double Deuce, but if the Drive-By Truckers had been around back then, there absolutely could not have been a better choice for the soundtrack to sweaty naked broads getting seduced on bar-room washing machines, fat rednecks in suspenders flying across the room in bare-knuckled brawls, and skinny dudes with Britny Fox hair acting as coolers while banging the town doctor on the side and ripping the bad guy’s henchman’s throat out at the river’s edge.
In other words, the Truckers are a rad southern rock band. And with “English Oceans,” they’re back in rattlesnake biting form after a two album stint in suckage. The Truckers have historically rode a trade-off between band leader Patterson Hood and the more proficient, yet less omnipresent lyrical hit man Mike Cooley, whose contributions have usually been superior. Out of the all-time top 10 badass Trucker tunes, Cooley is responsible for at least 7. The gravelly voice is perfect for backwoods-sister-ramming narration, and the metaphorical characterizations of all of those straight up SumBitches in the Dirty South are under Cooley’s wings.
“English Oceans” finds Hood in top form to match Cooley’s prolific output. The Truckers continue to ride their southern rock/alt country/classic rock hybrid sound into that damn dusty sunset, but this time around the material is consistently better than anything they’ve done since “The Dirty South,” which in in its own right is one of the top 5 most underrated albums of its decade. The band’s charm has always been in detailing the mishaps of f*ckups cascading across barroom riffs and smoldering ballads, and “English Oceans” doesn’t belie their heritage. It’s just a hell of a lot better than anything they’ve put out in 10 years. From the filth groove powered “Sh*t Shots Count” to the sprawling, melodic “Grand Canyon,” Hood and Cooley meet each other in the middle. After 25 years, it’s about time.