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CD review: Drive-By Truckers’ ‘English Oceans’

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Three stars

Drive-By Truckers English Oceans

English Oceans is the first album from Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers since their 1998 debut to feature the work of just two singer-songwriters; founders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have been augmented at various times in the past by former members Rob Malone, Jason Isbell and Shonna Tucker. Here they split the songs evenly, and there’s a definite hole (even just a small one) where a third voice would be.

Still, it’s nice to hear Cooley match Hood, who usually dominates DBT releases, and the songs are typically finely wrought narratives and character studies about Southern ne’er-do-wells. Musically, English Oceans gets a bit monotonous, and it lacks any particular standout tracks. Hood and Cooley can still encapsulate ideas in single neat turns of phrase (“A girl plain as a primer coat”), but the slightly twangy rock that supports those lyrics sounds a bit uninspired this time around.

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