Bought this album (and all the others) for myself some years ago having discovered DBTs on Dimeadozen live music bittorrent site. For me, DBTs are the best band around currently. The band is overflowing with talent, four out of the five band members on this album are songwriters and lead singers in their own right and take turns as lead singer of their own compositions while the rest of the band support. This is like having four different bands under the same name and yet they keep a consistency. Some songs are dark, some deep, some entertaining, some sad, Many are inciteful. If you like your rock creative, intelligent, relentless and with a Southern accent then you'll love this.
This CD was bought as a present for my son who loves it too. Like he says, if you don't like DBTs, you don't like music.
Buying recorded music on spec - even, and sometimes especially, on recommendation - is an activity which guarantees frequent disappointment among the occasional blazing revelation. This record is one of those elusive revelations. It's so good, in fact, that for some time I held off purchasing anything else by DBT. As they say in the final track, "The secret of a happy ending is knowing when to roll the credits; better roll `em now before anything else goes wrong." Having moved on to buy The Dirty South, I'm now happy that A Blessing and a Curse is not just a one-off.
The style dwells somewhere in the slash in country/rock and there are several influences apparent - Crazy Horse, some Allman Brothers-like guitar, a little bit of Wilco (not too much, don't want to spoil it), maybe even a little Blue Oyster Cult or Eagles - but the overall effect is their own.
All of the tracks are good, but a few stand out.
Track three, Easy on Yourself, tells you most definitely not to be easy on yourself, as this may be your only shot. So good it should be a bumper sticker. Some inspirational speaker should pick this up quick. Track four, Aftermath USA, is about what happens to your favourite dysfunctional family the morning after, with credit cards maxed out, crystal meth in the bathtub, the car parked sideways in the carport and a number of other catastrophes familiar to most of us in suburbia.
Daylight, track six, but is the real singalong track of the album, really heartstring tugging lyrics and vocals. Wednesday, track seven, kicks up the pace of proceedings, and provides some nicely quotable soundbites - "he said every man's house should be his palace, but his house still stank of catshit" - and there are some more freaky characters who can turn their arms backwards and threaten to hold their breath till next Wednesday.
The next track, Little Bonnie, is a kind of ghost story about the death of a sister before the narrator was born, and whose memory haunts him even though he never knew her. There's some fantastically atmospheric guitar to support the lyrics about grandma promising to look after the little girl while mom gets her beauty sleep. And a great line about dad asking for forgiveness as if the death of a loved one is a punishment for his own wrongs.
For real country grit, Space City takes some beating. It's a love song, but there's no trace of sentimentality. The eponymous metropolis is described as being just an hour away but about as close to the moon as anyone "round here" is going to get. No dreams come true in this song.
The penultimate, title, track is the powerhouse of the album. The guitar work is as muscular as the lyrics. Example: "Sucking on what's left of your trust fund, sucking on the end of a shotgun." But at the same time it's slow and relentless, rather than fast and furious.
The CD rounds off with A World of Hurt. The largely spoken lyrics are about Love and Pain, and again has some great soundbites, as referenced above.
So, this was number one of two really excellent DBT records. Do I dare go for three?
I'm not a hardcore fan of Drive By Truckers having only bought The Dirty South before, but out of the two I prefer A Blessing and a Curse. It's less weighty than the Dirty South in that it seems to be a collection of songs rather than a concept album. As other reviews say it's got a bit of country to it (in a Steve Earle / Copperhead Road sense) and the Stones-type rockers are done very well - "Aftermath USA" and "Gravity's Gone".
Putting their more direct influences to one side, whilst there's plenty of guitar action there are some more gentle moments such as "Goodbye" and my favourite song, "Daylight", which sounds so familiar it should be much more well known.
In places it was reminiscent of My Morning Jacket, particularly their great album "It Still Moves".
After the run of truly great LPs, "Southern Rock Opera", "Decoration Day" or "Dirty South", it was likely there would come a point where it tailed off slightly - and I think thats happened here. I've listened to this about 5 or 6 times now, and I must admit it's grown on me considerably. When I first heard it I wasn't overly impressed. There are 3 or 4 really good songs - but the rest seem (at least by DBT standards) a little bit like padding. Before I bought this, I'd read a couple of reports that this was going to an LP completely made up of rockers, it's not. It a mixture of the usual, ballsy punky country(ish) rock, and some slow burners. Mike Cooley's "Gravity's Gone" is as GOOD as anything he's ever written - and I think he's the best writer in the band! It's definitely well worth having - but if you're new to the band, i'd recommend you check out any of the preceding 3 records first. SUCH a talented band - and if you think the records are good, check them out live!
The Drive-by Truckers are a great live band. If thy're coming to a venue near you then you must go and see them, you will not be disappointed. A Blessing and a Curse is their sixth studio album and is very different to its predecessors. The songs are snappier and less concerned with stories, more personal. The theme seems to be how life almost never turns out the way you want it. They have moved away from Southern Rock and many of their country influences they showcased on previous albums and have gone for a tighter and spikier, almost punky, sound with less of the guitar rave ups of the past and it works. They even feature keyboards on quite a few tracks. Highlights include the opener February 14 which is a short, drum driven rocker and the most unromantic song about Valentine's Day you could imagine. Easy on Yourself has great guitar work, best played loud. Aftermath USA is a Facesesque rocker about good times gone wrong. Two back to back songs deal about different aspects of bereavment; Little Bonnie is Patterson Hood song about living with the collective memory of a sister who died before the protagonist was born while Space City is about a widower coping with his loss. The title track has a great guitar driven intro while the spoken word closer World of Hurt is a song about making the most of what life throws at you with some superb pedal steel by John Neff. At just over 40 minutes this must be the Drive-by Truckers' shortest album yet. It does not have a weak song on it and I can't wait to see them play these songs live very soon. This band deserves to be huge!
"A Blessing and a curse" has been mine introduction into the wonderful southerrock music of Drive-by Truckers. Before 2009 I did not know the band, but read sometimes an article about the band. Basic message was the band was the best kept secret in the (southern)rock scene.
I was and still am very pleased with the introduction, because I like the record a lot. I think it is a straightforward southernrock album with a mix of rock, smooth, fast, accoustic, slow, short and longer songs. It's the last record with the guitarline-up of Hood-Cooley-Isbell. What I like is the obvious differences between the three, but packed together in one record it still makes sense.
In the first three songs you are already introduced to the three: Hood his 'Feb 14' is the short drum driven, lyrical definitely not romantic rocksong about Valentines day. Cooley distinctive voice on the fun, lighter 'Gavity's gone' and the faster Isbell on 'Easy on Yourself' with its full guitarsound.
Special care for the beautiful 'Little Bonnie', Hood's ode to his (and to all) died-before-you-were-born-yourself sister. Not a slow song, but semi-accoustic and wonderful storytelling within the song. You can't resist the lines "But they say Bonnie's crystal eyes put the stars to shame / Maybe heaven needed Bonnie's face".
This cd got stuck in my carradio and I got stuck on the cd. Southern Rock at it's best. Their recent gig in Antwerp (Belgium) was mindblowing and this is one of the albums the band eargerly chooses tracks from like "Gravity's Gone" and "Aftermath USA".