38 Special - Drivetrain
Southern / Bluesy Hard Rock
12 songs (55:00)
Release year: 2004
Reviewed by Mike

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect with this album. Actually, I was surprised to see that 38 Special is still around and still releasing albums. Their last studio release was way back in 1997: Resolution. The band churned out numerous hard rock hits in the 1980s, including Hold On Loosely, Caught Up In You, and If I'd Been The One. Unlike this AORish hard rock material of the past, Drivetrain is a heavy rockin', bluesy album, with a distinct southern flavor. Obviously, this type of release won't appeal to a vast majority of readers of this site, but for those who like hard rock in the vein of Ironhorse, 1970's Bad Company, or Molly Hatchet, Drivetrain will be album worth your time.

Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zant share vocal duties on this album, both feature a powerful, gritty delivery with a bit of a country-like twang. This vocal delivery couples with the heavy guitars to provide an "in your face" style of hard rock. The guys have opted to go for more of a heavy groove guitar sound on this album, which gives the songs a more bluesy flavor, with the Southern roots a bit less pronounced (except for the twangy vocals) than I expected. At any rate, the songs are full of energy, finding their way into your memory quite easily. Honestly, I would have preferred a couple of riff driven rockers to mix things up. However, Don Barnes and Danny Chauncey team up very well to provide heavy rhythms throughout the album. Both Barnes and Chauncey teamed up to handle the production duties for this CD. The sound is clear and well balanced, and I'm sure the heavy guitar sound is exactly what the guys were aiming for. Given the track record of this band, and the hits they have churned out over the years, it's hard to classify any of these songs as killers. On the other hand, I don't think 38 Special are really going for a radio hit at this point in their career. Instead, I believe they are striving for a consistent album that pleases the listener from start to finish; in that aspect, they have succeeded. I will say that this album is probably the heaviest (and most consistent) album the guys have released in their career. The guitar work is very much at the forefront of the sound, with an authoritative and heavy presence. As I said earlier, these grooves and heavy rhythms become memorable very quickly, but don't expect the infectious melodic quality of their radio hit days. I can't point out a dull moment on the disc, and I'm sure fans of the band and blues/southern rock in general will find a lot to like here.

It's good to hear that a band like 38 Special is able to deliver an honest album for their fans after so many years in the industry. Instead of aiming for the radio hit, the guys have concentrated on delivering a complete album that true fans of the band will eat up. Not all bands soften with age as evidenced here. 38 Special still have plenty of energy and quality songwriting left, and hopefully it's not another 7 years before these guys deliver another studio album to their fans.

Killing Songs :
Hurts Like Love, Jam On, Quick Fix
Mike quoted 75 / 100
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