WHO ARE THEY? The venerable, dependable and commendable southern-fried indie-rock stalwarts fronted by singer-songwriter guitarists, longtime musical partners and onetime roommates Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. And the band that served as the launching pad for acclaimed singer-guitarist Jason Isbell.
WHAT IS THIS? Their dozenth studio album — and the orneriest, most opinionated and political work of their two decade-plus career. Granted, 2016’s election-cycle protest album American Band wasn’t exactly a frothy romp. But the tellingly titled Unraveling almost makes it look like pop in comparison to these grim, broodingly intense tracks tackling the border crisis, opioid addiction, mass shootings, religious hypocrisy, income inequality, right-wing punditry and more.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Outrage. Disgust. Horror. Basically what every person with a functioning soul, heart and brain thinks and feels every time they read or watch the news — except these dispatches from the edge are set to rangy, raw-boned guitar-rock and voiced in a twangy drawl.
WHAT ARE THE MOST REVEALING LYRICS? “Guns and ammunition / Babies in a cage / They say nothing can be done / But they tell us how they prayed / In the end we’re just standing / Watching greatness fade.”
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Hell No, We Still Ain’t Happy. In Fact, We’re Even More Pissed Off.
WHEN SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? While painting protest signs for whichever political, social or economic atrocity happens to be at the top of the list that day.
WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Angry, dark, pointed, patriotic, explicit, plainspoken, uncompromising, charged, passionate, progressive.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? Armageddon’s Back in Town, Thoughts and Prayers, Grievance Merchants and the epic closer Awaiting Resurrection are among the heaviest songs they’ve ever written. For something a little lighter, fire up Cooley’s Foghat-fuelled joyride tale Slow Ride Argument.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘If Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could have an album for their running mate, this one would probably get out the vote.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? Whenever you need to hear a voice of reason after enduring another day in the increasingly rapid descent into chaos, madness and fascism that now passes for modern life.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A TV NETWORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE? MSNBC.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Freedom isn’t free.