For the third straight album, Alabama's Drive-By Truckers write what they know with a zeal unsurpassed in American rock groups. Suicide, drugs, corruption, tornadoes, family -- these complex topics populate The Dirty South, a bracing reconsideration of life below the Mason-Dixon Line. What had become an easy cultural stereotype -- the ass-backward rednecks of hillbilly central -- is redeemed by the band's three smart Southern songwriters. Mike Cooley contributes gems like "Daddy's Cup," a son's determined attempt to claim the race-car glory his failed father could never achieve on his own. Patterson Hood, the band's leader, specializes in demythologizing tales but also loves the hard-luck losers, such as on the desperate "Lookout Mountain." But best of all may be youngster Jason Isbell, who on "Goddamn Lonely Love" and "Danko/Manuel" adds the introspection and philosophical content. On the Truckers' best record yet, they pay homage to their roots while burying the clichés six feet deep. -- Tim Grierson
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