Alt-Country Rock Review: Drive-By Truckers - The Unraveling

Release Date: January 31, 2020
Label:  ATO Records
It's been said that giving a voice to your sorrows and fears helps to make them go away. Drive-By Truckers 12th studio release, The Unraveling is a confession and a testimony, a somber cry in the night, a prayer for the dawn to set the course for a brighter day.  

If you are turning to Drive-by Truckers to escape the harsh realities of the current political climate, turn elsewhere.  The Unraveling tackles gun violence, immigration, white nationalism, equal pay, and Armageddon with a velvet hammer.

The music is a blend of slow-churning alt-county grooves with cry-in-the-night guitar wailing riding on the heavy rails of melancholy keyboard dirges. The slow builds on songs such as "Grievance Merchants" erupt into fury at the end. Like a conversation that turns to confrontation, Drive-By Truckers add an underlying drama to these songs, intensifying the listening experience. "Awaiting Resurrection" puts one in the mind of Neil Young's On the Beach period.

Make no mistake, The Unraveling is a dark and heavy offering. If you're not in that mindset already, these songs will put you there. There are a few rockers such as "Armageddon's Back in Town" and "Slow Ride Argument," which provide the necessary anger for the lyrics. When the tempo slows, and brooding air fills the space between the notes, the anger turns to anguish.

Skillfully crafted lyrics and arrangements move songs like "21st Century USA" and "Thoughts and Prayers," one a step away from cliche. The latter, along with "Awaiting Resurrection," make up the strongest songs on the album. 

In essence, The Unraveling has the vibe of hanging out with a friend in a bar. Each song is a topic of conversation about the state of the community, country, and planet. Not all conversation is comfortable, but that's the way things go after a few beers. In the end, you'll have caught up, commiserated, gained some perspective, and grown closer to your fellow man.

Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen | MuzikMan.net Staff

February 2, 2020

1. Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun
2. Armageddon's Back in Town
3. Slow Ride Argument
4. Thoughts and Prayers
5. 21st Century USA
6. Heroin Again
7. Babies in Cages
8. Grievance Merchants
9. Awaiting Resurrection

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