Album: Drive-By Truckers <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

A Blessing and a Curse, NEW WEST
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The Independent Culture

There's a stale whiff of the familiar about the Drive-By Truckers' seventh album, which follows much the same route as its predecessors, only without the central unifying theme that elevated 2002's Southern Rock Opera to another level. The songs feature the standard cast of losers and low-lifes - the wastrel of "Aftermath USA", the recluse in "Wednesday" whose "castle stank of cat shit and alone", the plummeting trustafarian of the title track - eulogised with the standard musical blend of Stonesy raunch, Eagles-esque country-rock and Crazy Horse bravado. Only in a few cases, however, is one emotionally connected with the protagonist - and neither of the songs about dead people, "Little Bonnie" and "Space City", is amongst them. It's all downhill from the opening "Feb 14", a sturdy stomp-rock valentine to an old flame who's "blossoming all over while I wither on the vine", the album thereafter scraping grimly across life's underbelly until the concluding "A World of Hurt", a meditation on love, pain and endurance which claims: "It's a wonderful world, if you can put aside the sadness/And hang on to every ounce of beauty upon you". Time to start practising what they preach, perhaps.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Feb 14', 'A World of Hurt', 'Aftermath USA'