After lineup change, the Truckers return with an expansive statement
Why hasn’t Shonna Tucker been singing all these years? Brighter Than Creation’s Dark is the bass player’s third album with the Truckers, but the ?rst where she writes and sings. Showcasing her rich voice and subtle twang, her slow, soulful songs “I’m Sorry Huston” and “The Purgatory Line” not only ?t in well with the Truckers’ tapestry approach to Southern rock and Southern life, but actually expand on it, providing a feminine counterpart to Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s masculine songwriting. Ostensibly, Tucker is ?lling the position recently vacated by ex-husband Jason Isbell, who in ?ve years had become an important element in the band’s three-guitar/three-songwriter attack. Despite his absence, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark may be the Truckers’ best and most expansive album since Southern Rock Opera—more tuneful than 2004’s The Dirty South, and less staid than 2006’s A Blessing and a Curse. The band expands its familiar rock sound with forays into soul (two members are progeny of Muscle Shoals musicians), Southern boogie, and AM-gold country—all in service to tales of hard-drinking fathers, vengeful ghosts, weird Harolds and director John Ford. Hood writes about Iraq vets on “The Man I Shot” and “The Home Front,” delicately and convincingly examining war’s emotional toll on soldiers and their families. But Brighter Than Creation’s Dark belongs to Mike Cooley, who contributes seven of his best, most rousing songs about hard-luck characters—the kind you know and probably avoid—proving the Truckers are at their best singing about people at their worst.