Drive-By Truckers is the name of a Southern rock band, at Patterson Hood is its driving force. When - his band mates contribute some songs to the group, but our music critic Robert Christgau says it's Hood's songwriting that really stands out.

Here's a review of the latest album from Drive-By Truckers. It's called "Brighter than Creations Dark."

(Soundbite of Music)

ROBERT CHRISTGAU: For their first few years, the Drive-By Truckers were an alt-boogie band as crude and demented as their name.

(Soundbite of song "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife")

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS (Band): (Singing) When he reached the gates of heaven. He didn't understand.

CHRISTGAU: In 2001, they revealed their higher ambitions by celebrating Lynyrd Skynyrd in words and music on a double CD called "Southern Rock Opera." By then, Patterson Hood had proven himself an indefatigable teller of stories about Southern sinners. But the band's new album, "Brighter Than Creation's Dark," begins its protagonist is in heaven as his friends cry around his deathbed.

(Soundbite of song "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife")

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) Is there vengeance up in heaven? Are those things left behind? Maybe every day is Saturday morning. Two daughters and a wife. Two daughters and a beautiful wife.

CHRISTGAU: Like the old cowpunks they are, the Drive-By Truckers have a soft spot for losers and total scuzzballs. They've also written more good songs about musicians than any competing road dogs you can name. But as they've gotten older, they've gotten more country. Their great subject isn't losers anymore — it's strugglers. The character who sings the song of play now could be the same guy who is looking down from heaven on the one you just heard. Only problem is, he's still alive.

(Soundbite of song "The Righteous Path")

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) I got a brand new car that drinks a bunch of gas. I got a house in a neighborhood that's fading fast. I got a dog and a cat that don't fight too much. I got a few hundred channels to keep me in touch. I got a beautiful wife and three tow-headed kids. I got a couple of big secrets I'd kill to keep hid. I don't know God but I fear his wrath. I'm trying to keep focused on the righteous path.

CHRISTGAU: Patterson Hood has never been the band's only writer. On the new record, bassist Shonna Tucker has some songs, and Hood's longtime partner Mike Cooley also contributes half a dozen good ones, such as "Lisa's Birthday."

(Soundbite of song "Lisa's Birthday")

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) It's always Lisa's birthday when I get that call. She's got no money for a cab she's way to drunk to walk. Lisa's had more birthdays than there are sad country songs, about trying to love two women and only taking one girl home.

CHRISTGAU: But Cooley is second banana in Drive-By Truckers. Usually, his songs are less pointed than "Lisa's Birthday" — less pointed than Hood's, too. Hood takes nine leads on "Brighter Than Creation's Dark," and just about every one is from the top drawer of a writer who's been prolific and consistent for a decade.

The titles of "Daddy Needs a Drink" and "You and Your Crystal Meth" speak for themselves. "Goode's Field Road" is about a junkyard operator who commits suicide so his wife and kids get his insurance. "The Monument Valley" takes off from the John Ford film "The Searchers."

And then there are two Iraq songs based on stories Hood was told by people he met. He admits that the soldier in "That Man I Shot," quote, "probably doesn't agree with a lot of my viewpoints." But he swears he got the guy's voice right the voice of a struggler, and maybe a sinner, but not a loser.

(Soundbite of song "That Man I Shot")

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: (Singing) That man I shot, he was trying to kill me. He was trying to kill me.

SIEGEL: The latest CD from the Drive-By Trucker is called "Brighter Than Creation's Dark."

Reviewer Robert Christgau is a senior critic at Blender magazine.

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