As the title suggests, these are the best of times for this Virginia-based quartet. Their 1993 Kerosene Hat spawned three hits and went platinum. On this third full-length effort, Cracker splurged on jumbo production; a 15-piece string section is featured on five cuts—a palpable, and unfortunate, departure from the austere but spirited southern rock that made them stars.
The Golden Age does contain traces of the rhythmic guitar grooves, powerful vocals and arch lyrics that have made these good ol’ boys such an enjoyable punky-tonk combo. But for every toe-tapping keeper—”Useless Stuff,” “Sweet Thistle Pie,” “Nothing to Believe In”—there lurks a clunker—”Big Dipper,” “Dixie Babylon,” “Bicycle Spaniard”—that sounds more like a Moody Blues outtake than a crisp new Cracker. (Virgin)