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on 3 March 2014
"English Oceans" is a grower. After the first time of listening it looks like only a few tracks are worth mentioning. But after a few turns, a night sleep and a new turn suddenly you realize: It's well structured, well balanced and, yes indeed, yet again a good quality DbT record. Big praise for the rhythm section, they pushes you head-nodding through the songs, especially on the first half of the record. The tougher rock influence like on "The big to-do" and on the "Blessing" record is less on "English Oceans", but that is not like a big miss. The band still rocks.

Cooley and Hood their songwriting and songs are somehow more woven into each other. Maybe the second song "When he's gone" and the third "Primer coat" are examples how. You would think that "When he's gone out" is about to fade out when suddenly Cooley takes over the vocals with a slightly change of rhythm. Only later you will realize these are two songs.

Just as on previous records also this one contains a few surprises: The use of horns on the opening track, the fast rocking `S*** Shots Count' by Cooley. It makes you think the song is one of the best lost and missing tracks of Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street." Another is the longer "Pauline Hawkins" with the let's-turn-into-a-southern-rock-short-jam ending. At first I could not fully understand the somewhat strange ending. Now listening to the song within the structure of the record I go crazy for it. Last one is album closer small epic "Grand Canyon": it rides, it rolls, it rides, it rolls, it rides, it rolls. It's Hood his strong ode to the Grand Canyon.

Cooley's gem on "English Oceans" is the faster, semi-acoustic "Made up English Oceans". It's like he wrote it for a modern western. It's the song that makes you turn your head a little bit anxious to see if somebody is chasing you.

The fans know DbT are true, faithful exponents for the working man. Always they have some strong daily life stories to tell in the songs. More specific Patterson Hood has always at least one excellent outstanding story. This time I think it's his ode to the politician in "The part of him". He expresses with words the feeling many people have with (certain) politicians. You have voted for them, but all the promises were just empty words to get them selected as your politician. Yes, "he was a piece of work, more or less a total jerk." Just before the record release the band has published a more intimate, acoustic and almost ultimate version of this song. The record version rocks a little bit more because of the use of electric guitar and full drum.

The middle-3/4 section `Til He's dead or Rising/Hangin On/Natural light/When Walter Went Crazy' is my lesser favorite part, because I slowly started to lose attention. I compare it with the middle section on "Brighter then Creation Dark" or the section of slow songs on "Go-Go-Boots". Luckily Cooley picks the attention with the semi-fast acoustic `First Air of Autumn'.

I bought the record without listening to the songs in the record store. I have for 100% no regrets. "English Oceans" by Drive-by Truckers: It's like this band is not capable of making a bad record. Or bad album sleeves. We should praise them for such quality.
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Whilst some bands mellow with age Alabama's best and brightest, the Drive by Truckers, are not ready yet to contemplate lazy days sitting on the porch. On this 12th album "English Oceans" their renewed promise of another blast of rock n roll raises the question when have they ever not been straining the volume control on Marshall amps. The USP of this album is for the first time a split in the songwriting duties between the great Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. The latter's creative juices had dried up for a while but this 50/50 outcome showcases two great songwriters entirely capable of making you forget that Jason Isbell was once in the band.

The album is full of great kicking rockers like the opening track "S*** Shot Counts", "When He is Gone" and "Hearing Jimmy Loud". In terms of the bands explosive live act they all will pin the audience to the wall at the back of the theatre. As ever though it is when you head towards the more Americana based rootsy DBTs where the real rewards are to be located. Thus the excellent title track "Made up English Oceans" has a backbeat like rawhide and lyrics which attack Republican values; a perennial target of Cooley and Co. The same singers vocal snarl is well employed on Hood's "Till he's dead or rising" a sub Stones mid paced rocker showing that perhaps Jagger and Richards would be well advised to pick up the phone and call both of them. Hood matches this on the swagger of "Natural Light" a slow blues song which witnesses some of his best singing in years, while the shuffling alt country of "First Day of Autumn" is stunning.

Perhaps the songs which may have the longest shelf life are both Cooley's. Firstly the slow acoustic ballad "Holding On" a track that trawls his darkest thoughts, while the great closer "Grand Canyon" stretching to nearly eight minutes is the band at its best dedicating a song to Craig Lieske known affectionately by as "Graytoven" who sadly died last year at the age of 46 from an heart attack. He was the bands merchandise specialist and often jointed them on stage. The tribute culminates with the poignant line "In my dreams I still can see you/Flying through a western sky/And I think about Grand Canyon/I lift my glass and smile"

"English Oceans" is yet again an effortless and brilliant album by one of the American best bands of the past two decades. If you are new to them you can very profitably start here. If that also means you have yet to hear either the "Dirty South" or the "Southern Rock Opera" this reviewers envy is deepest green.
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on 12 March 2014
I really like DBT, have all their albums and saw them live. You get good DBT albums and you get mediocre DBT albums and I'm afraid this is the latter. Sticking to their tried and tested formula, a lot of the songs seem familiar - you think you've heard it before but it's new.

Not much of an in-depth review, just my opinion, hope it helps.
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on 4 March 2014
... albeit with - in my opinion - the wrong man at the wheel.

Let's get that out of the way first: I still don't like David Barbe sitting at the production desk, but as he now doubles up as bass player, I'm not getting rid of him anytime soon. My problem is mostly that I don't think DBT can take any great leaps forward if there isn't someone to challenge Hood & Cooley to up their game. There's little here to attract new fans, and I would still point newcomers to the band to start with 2004's The Dirty South, and work their way outwards (in both directions) from there.

But never mind the new fans, what about preaching to those of us already converted? When I raced through my first listen, I had a mini-panic; I couldn't grab onto it. But by the third listen, this LP had me hooked. This is a VERY welcome collection of songs - from the Cooley-penned swaggering opener, all the way to the heartfelt, heart-breaking closing tribute to deceased friend Craig Lieske, both songwriters are making me grin again.

S+++-SHOTS COUNT includes an ace brass part that points down a musical road I reckon is worth exploring more in future. Cooley sounds really at ease on PRIMER COAT and FIRST AIR OF AUTUMN, which hints at his state of mind now that he's contributing fully to songwriting duties once more. THE PART OF HIM and MADE UP ENGLISH OCEANS prove that the band haven't lost their ability to lyrically skewer scumbag targets. PAULINE HAWKINS has a connection to another of my favourite bands, Richmond Fontaine, which can only be a good thing. NATURAL LIGHT is wonderfully ramshackle, and possibly my early favourite of all thirteen songs. Having said that, it's almost impossible to avoid hitting the 'Replay' button when GRAND CANYON finally fades out.

For the first time ever, I've delayed ordering a Drive-By Truckers album until after I've heard it, such was my concern over the direction the band was taking. Now all I reckon I've done is lose a week's potential listening.

Good stuff, fellas. See you in Manchester in May.
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on 6 March 2014
I believe DBT have found a new audience with English Oceans and I am pleased for them. For fans like me who first heard the first birth of DBT through the previous band Adam’s House Cat and the brilliant song ‘Runaway Train’ there has been much change. The first two albums Gangstabilly & Pizza Deliverance are superb in terms of great songs and stories. Their sound became a little more country rock after these albums with the brilliant Southern Rock Opera which I suppose defined DBT’s sound and image as a band from Deep South Alabama and their so called Southern Thing! Jason Isbell then arrived which brought a much needed more melodic sound and the brilliant Decoration Day, The Dirty South and A Blessing and A Curse. (Best albums to date).

Then in my opinion (and it is only my opinion) since Jason Isbell left their albums have about 3 to 4 great songs on them and the rest are diluted versions of what went before. For me English Oceans falls into this category – the only songs I have enjoyed on this album which are classic DBT songs are - When He's Gone, Primer Coat and Pauline Hawkins, the rest are just rock jams (and they seem to have found a new audience as I say with this, maybe no one else is doing this at the moment – but to me it is uninspiring, done before and non-melodic rock).

Brighter Than Creations Dark is a poor album apart from a couple of songs and Shonna Tucker cannot sing, she has a weak voice and it is out of tune!

Go Go Boots is poor apart from one classic song – Patterson Hood’s – Used to be a cop.
The Big To-Do – Birthday boy – that is it.

I believe Patterson Hood’s last solo album had more of the early DBT’s sound and that to me was what DBT were all about – Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. Jason Isbell’s solo albums especially the last Southeastern are to me are far better quality than DBT’s output for the last number of albums.

Overall we are all entitled to our opinions and inevitably some people may have only discovered DBT and think they are the best thing since ‘cornbread’ and I am not going to stand in their way, but for me I don’t get excited about them anymore. I have seen them live a number of times and to be fair it is a great experience they give a 100%, but if you don’t like their recent output it can end up becoming an endurance to watch them live rather than an uplifting experience, hence I won’t be going to see them live this year in the UK – but for new audiences and fans who still love them enjoy, at least as a band and as people they are the real deal!
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After three years and several personnel changes, I was wondering if DBT would still be the band I got to know through A Blessing And A Curse. Fortunately the band’s bedrock, Hood and Cooley, with help from stalwart drummer Brad Morgan, ensure that, whilst this isn’t a rerun of Blessing, or anything else they’ve done before for that matter, it’s recognisably DBT, with the reassuring explosion of Morgan’s crash cymbal liberally scattered throughout. The dabbling with soul, characteristic of the Shonna Tucker period, seems to be over.

The record begins with a roar, the opening track given added punch by a brass arrangement courtesy of Jay Rodriguez. Likewise When He’s Gone, which follows, is a rocker, but slightly less intense. And so, as the tone quietens and the record progresses, the rock influence fades to country until, by the time we get to The Part Of Him, we can hear the banjo, though the country pedal steel cliché is missing due to the departure of John Neff. Finally, at Grand Canyon, we have a tender waltz in tribute to a natural wonder of the North American continent reminiscent of Monument Valley from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.

The music is tastefully decorated with the smart story-telling and wordplay lyrics of Hood and Cooley, who divide the honours between them to become the Strummer/Jones of our times. Although a little croaky at times, Cooley’s vocals are far better than on his frankly rather sub-par live solo set A Fool On Every Corner (which I nevertheless wouldn’t be without), and in general it’s good to see DBT have survived a gruelling tour schedule, and the subsequent (probably not unrelated) personnel changes, with their creative heart beating and healthy.
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on 16 February 2015
Another excellent album from a fantastic group.. Some great rock songs from Mike Cooley- the REM- like "Primer Coat" and the Stones- like "S*** Shots Count" and "Hearing Jimmy Loud" are superb. Patterson Hood's songs such as "Pauline Hawkins", "When He's Gone" "The Part of Him" and "Grand Canyon" have compelling lyrics, as ever.
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on 6 June 2014
I have just seen DBT in London (great live by the way) and think that the essence of the band comes through equally in the flesh and on record. Great songwriting, underscored by a storytelling approach, outstanding musicianship across a range of styles (and levels) of volume, and a powerful sincerity in what they do. If you don't know DBT this is a good place to start, if you do then add this to your collection - and go see them perform!
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on 1 April 2014
Being honest, this isn't my favourite DBT album, although there's time for it to grow on me yet! It's the first release since Shonna Tucker left, and for me, her input is something that's missing. That said, the standard of songs we've come to expect from Messrs Hood and Cooley continue here. Patterson's reflective and sometimes dark lyrics - 'When Walter Went Crazy' coupled with Mike's wry and sometimes humourous observations - 'S*** Shots Count' won't disapoint DBT fans. This is a band I've seen live and admire greatly, so bear that in mind if you're looking for an unbiased 'Guardian Music' type of review.
If you know this band though, don't hold back on buying this album.
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on 22 April 2014
I have always enjoyed the music of the Drive By Truckers, this album is a return to them at there best, if you enjoy your Southern Rock, then this is a must.
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