After six albums full of Dixie-fried themes and musical mayhem, Alabama's Drive-By Truckers entered the studio for their seventh release with a different agenda.

After six albums full of Dixie-fried themes and musical mayhem, Alabama's Drive-By Truckers entered the studio for their seventh release with a different agenda. "We wanted to make a record that was strictly song-oriented and wasn't attached to a bigger narrative," frontman Patterson Hood says of "A Blessing and a Curse," due this week via New West. "We almost had more of a list of what we didn't want than what we did want."

For the most part, the songs are more economic than those on previous DBT records, with the majority clocking in the three- to four-minute range. "We're all big Big Star fans and fans of pop and power pop, and we wanted to experiment with those influences a little more than we have in the past," Hood says.

Recorded in about two weeks, "Blessing" is a tightly crafted, less raw work that mostly abandons the Southern themes that dominated early material. "I write a lot of songs [about the South] and will continue to, but we wanted to do a record that wasn't so specific in the geography," Hood says. "We're from the South, but that's not all we can do."

What "Blessing" does have in common with previous albums is a running theme of loss and coming to terms with it on songs like the tragic death of a child in "Little Bonnie," a lost mate in the sparse "Space City" or an ex-friend in the bluesy "Goodbye." Says Hood, "A lot of good things have happened to us in the last couple of years both as a band and in our personal lives. But something as wonderful as having children also brings along these new fears and terrors and responsibilities."