Decoration Day

If Springsteen had been born in Denton, Texas, instead of Asbury Park and weaned on Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Texas twang of the Flatlanders, he’d write songs a lot like those of the Drive By Truckers. Like the Boss, the Austin quintet excels at portraits of those clinging to society's underside. Their outlaw fictions such as "Your Daddy Hates Me" and "The Deeper In" (inspired by a magazine article about the only two people in America serving time for consensual brother/sister incest), approach the solemn intensity of 16 Horsepower, while tracks like "Heathens" and "Outfit," with its thematic and musical resemblance to the Boss’ “Independence Day," trace the treacherous hold exerted by one’s personal roots.

Decoration Day is in general a little more downbeat and alt-country than their critically acclaimed opus, Southern Rock Opera. However when they do turn it up, as on the rollicking, gothic Southern-fried, "Hell No, I Ain't Happy," and the Stones-allegiant ode to rock ’n’ roll, "Marry Me," the sound's as raw and scathing as a barbed wire overcoat. Equally affecting is "Sink Hole," a lost farm story which sounds like Johnny Cash in a foul mood. While some may be disappointed in the general lack of combustibility, others will appreciate the moody, haunted air that infects many of these cuts.

E-mail Chris Parker at [email protected].