Drive-By Truckers

As time goes by, it looks less and less likely that the Drive-By Truckers will ever make a truly bad album. The Georgia six-piece's previous studio effort, 2008's Brighter Than Creation's Dark, was longer and more uneven than usual (but plenty dark), but buried within its 75 minutes were recession-foreshadowing jewels like "Daddy Needs a Drink," "The Righteous Path" and "A Ghost to Most." Even last year's The Fine Print, a collection of B-sides, castoffs and covers (Tom Petty's "Rebels," Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone") released to fulfill the Truckers' contract with New West before moving on to Dave Matthews's ATO imprint, holds together better than most bands' regular albums. As for that, this year's The Big To-Do snaps back with outstanding work from co-founders Patterson Hood ("The Fourth Night of My Drinking") and Mike Cooley ("Birthday Boy"), and furthers bassist Shonna Tucker's development as the band's hidden ace in the hole ("You Got Another"). Approaching their 15th year as one of the most intelligent, insightful and incendiary Southern rock bands ever to come down the pike, the Truckers — who have become fond of backing soul legends like Bettye LaVette and Booker T when not making their own albums — have never sounded better.

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