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Drive-by Truckers

Don't be misled by the deliberately cartoonish, yokel-meets-bling cover art -- the Drive-by Truckers are no joke. From their Athens, Georgia, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, origins, the ace roots-rock outfit laces its crazy-quilt Americana with barbed, satirical wit, and plenty of spirit. Gangstabilly and Pizza Deliverance are DBT's first two albums (from 1998 and '99 respectively), reissued and given new liner notes and digitally remastered treatment. The highlights are many and varied: Pizza has a demented Cajun waltz called "The President's Penis Is Missing," a flip-off to the right wing's bait-and-switch hullabaloo over Slick Willie's sexual indiscretions; a gospel-tinged rave-up tribute to "Zoloft;" and the genuinely pretty and wistful country ballad, "The Night G.G. Allin Came to Town." Gangstabilly boasts the mournful indictment of a "Wife Beater," with rustic harmonies evoking the Band in their Big Pink/Stage Fright prime; while the loping "18 Wheels of Love" does the wrenching, distorted-grunge-with-twang thang as well as the old master Neil Young himself. The common ground shared by both discs is heartfelt Uncle Tupelo/Jay Farrar-like vocalizing, resounding pedal steel guitar playing, and rough-hewn (though not sloppy), often stomping garage-band urgency.

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