Patterson Hood - Murdering Oscar

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...(and other love songs).  Such is the humor of Hood, the lead talent behind Drive-By Truckers, who, for those in the know, is the leading southern rock band today.

DBT's and Hood's solo work share similar themes.  These aren't the pop-rock tunes of .38 special, the affected vocals of Molly Hatchet, or the defense of things Southern by Skynyrd.

Instead, Hood typically writes either about characters one generally doesn't want on their list of friends, relationships gone sour, or biting yet hopeful commentary on the injustice faced by the working class guy.  Hood's strength is his narratives and the decidedly moral undertones of his characters, positively in family terms, and negatively towards most anything else.

He is also decidedly non-religious, never mocking faith but leaving it at arms length.  Related themes of redemption from sin are frequent, but invariably the sin is justified and there remains the only the telling of why it is (such as going to church and looking the preacher in the eye after burying a banker - guiltyMurdering Oscar - Patterson Hood of a foreclosure - in a sink hole).  That's across the body of his work.

In this release of leftovers from the last decade, he jumps right into the same themes.  The title track (written quickly before a performance before a politically correct audience):

Oscar Oscar was destroying me
I killed Oscar, burden lifted off of me
I killed Oscar now I'm happy happy happy
I killed Oscar before he killed me
I don't need forgiveness for my sins
I don't need redemption for my sins
I don't need salvation cause I saved myself
I don't need your help because I helped myself
I don't need nobody trying to save save save me
I killed Oscar and I forgave me

In "Granddaddy," he speculates on his later years:

But I ain't taking any chances on my fate
Gonna bounce you on my knees just in case
When the time comes to burn out or fade away
Like the rest of my life, I'll be running late

In "Heavy and Hanging," he tells of the guy who is running out of options:

I don't have lots of money like those people on the TV
See I have some real problems
Like what to do tomorrow and the day after that
And where I left that ski mask

In "Back of the Bible," he finds an empty sheet to write a song:

I wrote you a love song on the back of a Bible
On the back of a Bible, A love song for you
I ain't no authority about what it says in it
Can't even begin it
But that page in the back is blank and waiting for you

Musically, despite some worthy bass lines by his father and a Chris Isaak-like use of girl vocals on one song, the songs here stylistically are no different from his group work, and several songs might have improved the last two fairly lackluster DBT releases. 

For what amounts to leftovers, it's no surprise that some of these songs certainly underachieve, particularly as Hood forces lyrics into choruses that often don't fit or where the narrative is particularly thin.  Like his band mates, he has a limited vocal range, and he's most comfortable with loud, jangling guitar chords to carry each song.  This CD was recorded four years ago, and at the time it would have been considered a musical departure from DBT, trading in slide guitar for pedal steel to handle sweetening the sound spectrum.  Unfortunately, with Jason Isbell's departure, DBT now sounds closer to this album, the pedal steel a mediocre tradeoff for Isbell's superb guitar work.   

One of the best aspects of this CD is the accompanying booklet. It has lyrics to some songs, but also has the background story of what caused him to write each one.  It's insight that is humorous and appreciated, and, though also provided on his web site, supports my cause: Death to the Downloads! Long Live the CD!

Recommended Songs: "Pollyanna," "Pride of the Yankees," "Granddaddy"

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

The only song I could find from this CD in video form: "She's a Little Randy"

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