Sunday, November 16, 2008

November 16, 2008: Drive-By Truckers - "Heathens"

Today, I will meet Patterson Hood. I guess you could call him the "frontman" of the Drive-By Truckers. He founded the band with Mike Cooley a dozen years ago. While both serve as singers and songwriters in the band, Cooley tends to come off as intensely private, possibly with a bit of a mean streak. Patterson is the approachable one. He's the guy who does all the interviews, who stands in the middle of the stage at the shows, who interacts with the audience, and he's the guy who always has a big ol' grin on his face.

During the three-album run of Decoration Day, The Dirty South, and A Blessing In a Curse, which say the addition of Jason Isbell to the Truckers' three-pronged singer/songwriter attack alongside Hood and Cooley, a pretty solid argument could be made that Hood was only the third best singer/songwriter in his own band. Perhaps that's because while Isbell and Cooley have been consistently great, Hood has taken more chances in his songwriting. Sometimes he falls flat, but usually he hits it... and good lord, he knows how to knock it out of the park.

One such case is "Heathens," from my favorite Drive-By Truckers album, Decoration Day. I don't know if it was the arrival of the prodigiously talented Isbell as a third songwriter in the band, or if it was some of the personal issues in his life spilling out onto record, but Patterson definitely stepped up his songwriting game on the fourth Truckers LP. His songs on that album ("Sinkhole," "My Sweet Annette," and "Something's Gotta Give Pretty Soon" also among them) represented the most personal collection he had put forth to date. With the same thing happening from both Cooley and Isbell, everything came together for a flawless album.

The thing I love most about Patterson Hood is the persona he projects. Watching him perform and listening to him sing, you can tell that this is a man whose life was saved by rock and roll. His love of rock mythology may occasionally border on schmaltzy, but it is always sincere. I can't help but love a guy who appears to be having so much fun.

Anyway, Patterson is giving a solo in-store performance at 2 PM today at Treehouse Records, sandwiched between a couple of sold out Drive-By Truckers shows with The Hold Steady at First Avenue. Of all the songs he's written, "Heathens" is probably my favorite. Therefore, it is today's Greatest Song of the Day.

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