Saturday, December 29, 2012


I'll just start this one out by saying that Patterson Hood is the most underrated songwriter out there right now, and also one of the best.

Of course, I'm a huge fan of his band The Drive-By Truckers.  Their album Go-Go Boots was my favorite album of 2010, and I named them one of my favorite artists of the '00s.

At first, I was not sure why Patterson didn't use these songs for a DBT record, especially since most of the Truckers are on the album (even singer/songwriter Mike Cooley contributes banjo).

There's so much heartbreak in the songs, and while I usually don't require real-world context to enjoy a record, sometimes I'm interested.  I generally don't follow the lives of the artists I love, just their music.  But I can't deny that, say, knowing a bit about Dylan's life makes Desire a bit heavier than it would be without that knowledge.  And I felt a genuine concern for Hood when listening to the record.  I hoped his marriage, and his life, was doing ok.  It's none of my business, but still.

So, I checked out the "bio" for the album on his website. He always writes pretty frankly on Facebook, I figured he'd provide some background.  And he did: the songs  on the album were written as part of a novel he was working on and hasn't finished, but was based on a terrible period in his life. Well, I was sorry he went through what he went through, but I'm glad it's not what he's going through now.

He starts out the album cinematically, as he often does with DBT.  In "12:01," the line "2:45, I know she's at home sleeping as I open number five," is devastating.  That's some Springsteen/Nebraska level scene setting.

But the song that really gets me is "Come Back Little Star," which features female vocals courtesy of Kelly Hogan. There's a stripped down acoustic version online without Hogan online, but for me, it doesn't cut as deep without the female vocal.  When he sings "Baby don't go: come back little star and take me with you in the night" with her, it just hurts.  I imagine the two voices singing to each other, wanting to make it work, reserved to the fact that it isn't going to work.  It kind of hurts listening to it.

I always think that his DBT songs are very personal, but this album is even more personal, so I guess that's another reason why it would be a solo record.  Still, I imagine the guys in the band might be bummed on one hand that some of these aren't on a DBT record (even if the guys from the band play on the album), and on the other hand, they're probably not going to play these songs live because they are not strictly DBT songs.  Still, they seem so heavy and so heartfelt, they seem like they deserve more than "side-project" status.

But anyway, I know that the Truckers will ride again in 2013, albeit in different form than the last time I saw them: bassist/singer Shonna Tucker and guitarist John Neff are no longer with the band. It kind of makes you wonder if that opens the door for guitarist/singer/songwriter Jason Isbell to rejoin, as there is not only a spot for a guitarist, but his ex-wife is no longer in the group (although I doubt it).  But however they move on, they're gonna move on, and any band with Hood and Cooley (and their great drummer Brad Morgan, and their great keyboardist Jay Gonzalez, both of whom play on Patterson's record) is a band I want to see.

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