Starting with 2001's Southern Rock Opera, Drive-By Truckers began a hellacious run of storytelling rock & roll that fiercely mythologized and critiqued the American South. The disappointment of this year's The Big To-Do should be heard in that context. The album sounds strangely diffuse, like outtakes the songwriters and musicians never quite figured out how to nail. The reasons for this vibe are unclear — perhaps it's the distraction of Patterson Hood's solo effort, or the drain of relentless touring and studio work (a new album, Go-Go Boots, is in the can and tentatively slated for release this year) or that the band has its own legend to live up to with each release. Thankfully, the Truckers' catalog is as deep as that of any rock band working today, and the band's freewheeling, three-guitar-dueling concerts plunder that solid Southern gold for all its considerable worth.
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