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November 23, 2017


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Drive-By Truckers
Decoration Day (New West Records)

By: Mark A. Lawrence the IV

Album (al/ bem), n. 2. A long-playing phonograph record or set of records containing several musical selections, a complete play, opera, ect. 3. The package or container for such record or records. (Webster's Dictionary) Extended definition: A complete thought given life and form in music. A thought extending into expression through the artwork or the packaging. It's the songs, the way they're arranged, and the artwork on the cover, these are the elements that are referred to when the word album is used.

Their has been a lot of talk about how this is the Drive-By Truckers first "real" album. It's true, but the problem with saying this, is fewer and fewer people don't have a proper reference to understand what this means, thus the definition at the top. And, so yes I would agree that this is the certainly a "real" album but I would go as far as to say that Decoration Day is their best album to date, the result of a long hard road of growth and weathering. Following the highly ambitious and wonderfully executed Southern Rock Opera. Decoration Day succeeds to hone the power of Rock Opera with a focus that is tighter and thus more effective in conveying the amazing music of this album. The sweet flow of these down to earth narratives is so well executed that each song seems to melt into the next, providing the feel of a complete stream of consciousness, the feeling that accompanies all truly great albums. This shows how much thought must have been put into the play order of the songs. Plus all this amazing music is rapped up in packaging that's adorned by the artwork of the great artist/ musician Wes Freed. Art that in it's own way has captured the power of the songs on this album and given them a physical image.

The songs themselves are an amazing mix of raucous rock 'n' roll and more subtle ballads. "Marry Me" is a top notched rock song with wailing guitars and a powerful super charged drive, while "Decoration Day" is a insightful story song that is conveyed with more subtle musical arrangement and a near spoken word treatment to the lyrics. The song writing credits for this album include the always-powerful work of Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood as well as the wonderful addition of DBT's newest and youngest member Jason Isbell, whose lyrics for "Outfit" and the title track show bright high beams on a future of great songs from this young songwriter. Speaking of lyrics, this album has amazing lines that stick to you, they're so powerful. How they're matched up so well with music seems to bring out their meaning even more.

Decoration Day in the line of DBT albums successfully finds a middle ground of the slightly southern country stylings of their first two albums and the rocking number of those endeavors and the darker viscose guitar heaven of Southern Rock Opera. This album also funnels a better portion of their amazing live presence into these controlled studio tracks, something that before has only truly come across on the Alabama Ass Whuppin' live album. This all brings the characters in these songs to life, and makes their stories (some of which are true) more real for the audience. Over all, this is an amazing album and rightly deserves to be considered as one of the top albums of 2003. Rating: A+

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