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by Carey Murphy and Andrew Matson & r & & r & Apathy & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Eastern Philosophy & lt;/a & 4 Stars & r & Apathy is the best white rapper rapping today. He comes from a school that emphasizes rawness in lyrical delivery and production pastiche, a school that is eternally preoccupied with staying "true to the essence" of hip-hop without dissolving into shtick or sheer imitation of past greats. Unlike other adherents to true-schoolism (Jurassic 5, Little Brother, et al), Apathy steers clear of rap's warm fuzzies, harkening to the hyped-up aggression and prickly adrenaline of Kool G. Rap.

Unlike those legends, Apathy doesn't dwell on cinematic gangster rap, nor does he revel in his own wordy dexterity to the point of annoyance. He impresses here with his willingness to craft conceptual songs, to write outside the shadowbox. True, he's ig'nant enough not to care about his occasionally derogatory phrasings, but getting too offended just misses the point. You don't have to buy into Apathy's politics to appreciate his masterful mic-ripping. Put the whole thing over tracks of scratched Golden-era reverence, and you've got hardcore rap on the rocks. -- Andrew Matson & r & Recommended: "All About Crime"

Drive-By Truckers & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & A Blessing and a Curse & lt;/a & 4 Stars & r & Singer-guitarist Patterson Hood is one of my musical heroes. It's not that I feel some deep-rooted pride at the Alabama boy making good -- it's that I feel the pride so deeply. Critical darlings from the start, Drive-By Truckers continue to make some of the more intriguing rock of the past six years. A Blessing and a Curse keeps the musical standard high while keeping the lyrical content particularly depressing. In short, it's a combination that can't fail.

But Hood has plenty of help, as always. Fellow singer-guitarists Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell each offer gut-wrenching tracks. But their contributions account for only three of 11 tracks. For the most part, the album is Hood's opportunity to shine. Or considering the subject matter, it's his chance to feel the extreme isolation associated with loss.

This is Southern rock as it should be -- lots of jangly guitars, lots of slide, plenty of honky-tonk feel. Buy it now and listen continuously for weeks. Doctor's orders, folks. -- Carey Murphy & r & Recommended: "Aftermath USA"
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