Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Brighter Than Creation's Dark
New West

Lynyrd Skynyrd progeny deliver a winner by revving up their Skynyrd side

Prospects were poor for what turns out to be an overflowing song bag of an album by Lynyrd Skynyrd's arty nephews. Their last winner was 2004's The Dirty South, preceded by two others in close succession but followed by the disoriented A Blessing and a Curse and then the loss of tenor-songwriter Jason Isbell. Welcome though her gender bend is, bassist and Isbell ex Shonna Tucker doesn't compensate by writing and singing. But Mike Cooley is on his game -- the pro-bad-girl "Lisa's Birthday" and pro-weird-guy "Bob" shoot exceptionally straight. And knowing he has to carry the team, Patterson Hood executes -- scene-setters about domestic life as celestial respite, endless struggle and occasion to drink; dark-siders about crystal meth (named) and suicide (implied); memoir of an opening act on the road; and two agonizing Iraq songs, one of which sinks pained voice into guitar attack, strength against strength. You could argue that the Truckers should have revved up this Skynyrd side more often. But instead they let the songwriting speak for itself, and it sings loud and clear.

Rolling Stone, Jan. 24, 2008