By: Dennis Cook
Patterson Hood :: 09.11.07 :: Kuumbwa Jazz Center :: Santa Cruz, CA
It bodes well when the headliner is sitting next to the stage wearing a kid's grin. On a stool, dry as an Arizona wind and weathered as desert bones, Larry Hosford sang about a dog that got in and smacked someone with their tail. Feet away, Patterson Hood chuckled, taking in this folksiest of folksy singers, listening intently to a voice that crawls from some deep hollow in the human underground, craggy with minerals and the clinging leftovers of a life long lived. Seeing the two of them side by side was like some roots-rock before-and-after photo. Hosford - an instantly winning amalgam of Guy Clark and Bob Dylan with pockets overflowing with great tunes – is clearly Hood's kind of man, a picker-storyteller happy to have a stage, a mic, a beat up acoustic and a few ears to hear his tales.
| Patterson Hood by Matt Pence|
Hood broke off to the dressing room to scribble down a new song before it skittered away, as is the want of fleeting inspiration. A short while later he emerged, took his chair and asked the several dozen folks smart enough to be present, "You alright? There's not a lot of us so let's make it as personal as we can. How many kids you got? Boys or girls?" With a sly chuckle, he launched into new one "The Home Front," a chiller about those who wait behind during a war.
The hours creep across the face
As she paces across the floor
She can't even get to sleep since Tony went to war
She feels bitch-slapped and abandoned
By a world she thought she knew
Cold beyond comprehension as their little girl turns two
His thick, curly hair fell hard against his head as the unmoving spotlight beat down, a single bottle of water sitting between two perspiring Amstels at his feet. Hood is a man who knows his priorities, and later he mentioned a tasty bottle of spirits he'd sipped backstage earlier only to have a kind soul hand him the tall bottle of Scotch a minute later. "Spreading alcoholism far and wide for 22 years," quipped Hood. It's all just lubrication for an engine that burns hot and hard, churning out songs about the real hurt we deal each other, the endless musing smart blue collar boys suffer, the shit jobs they swallow and the good times snuck in between shifts.
| Patterson Hood by JPW|
For close to two hours Hood dropped one wonderfully tarnished golden note after another, pulling from his Drive-By Truckers catalog ("Heathens," "The Living Bubba," Tails Facing Up"), his first solo record, Killers And Stars, and plenty from his forthcoming sophomore release, Murdering Oscar (and other love songs) (due in February along with a new Truckers album according to Hood). The through-line is palpable ache and joy, not always in equal measures, that grounds one in reality. On the surface, a concert is a form of entertainment but in Santa Cruz Hood brought a small, deeply appreciative group closer to their emotions. I'd hazard that more than myself had some fresh thoughts on their own travails after Hood got done with us. And God bless the gruff muthafucker for doing it!
There's such a drive to distraction in the 21st century that we should get down on bended knees when we're given the tools to face our own deep, dark truths. It's not just his tunes that do it, either. Hood's impromptu observations and colorful, frequently hilarious between-song stories were as much a part of his impact and appeal as even a monster sing-a-long like Southern Rock Opera's "Let There Be Rock," which had most of shouting:
I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd
But I sure saw Ozzy Osbourne with Randy Rhoads in '82
Right before that plane crash
And I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd but I sure saw AC/DC
With Bon Scott singing, LET THERE BE ROCK!
Introducing one number, Hood said, "I quit that job but not before writing this song on the back of one of their pizza boxes. While on the clock. So, fuck those assholes. Fuck those people still." His bullshit detector is second to none, and he suffers abusers and idiots poorly, and rightly so, especially in America where we let a lot of unforgivable crap slide for the sake of the status quo. It's nice to cuddle up to righteous anger like Hood's from time to time, especially when leavened by a heart that puts the post-Christmas Grinch's to shame.
Hood's voice is a primal cry, a trigger that stirs sudden, intense laughter and tears in equal measures. It seemed to pain him to get every syllable out, his voice halting at moments to draw breath enough to push his bile verses into the air. With his boot keeping time against the mic stand, Hood gave of himself completely each and every song. There was never a second where one felt he was holding ANYTHING back. He's like vintage John Prine after being beaten by a sack full of oranges – tender and tart and beautiful as a bruise.
| Patterson Hood by JPW|
Keep an ear bent for a couple fresh compositions he performed at the Kuumbwa. "She's a Little Randy" is from the forthcoming soundtrack to Randy And The Mob, an indie feature directed by Hood's buddy, Ray McKinnon. And Hood described "The Opening Act," which will hopefully appear on Murdering Oscar, as "a short film without a film." Apt set-up given the opening line: "There's a big fat man on a mechanical bull in slow motion like Debra Winger." Disturbing, culturally savvy and funny as fuck, yeah, that's a Patterson Hood song.
It was a rare treat and privilege to sit at Hood's heels and let him ramble where his blessed mind did go. It wasn't the power and glory of a Drive-By Truckers gig but then again not all our street hymns need to arrive in a loud voice. Sometimes it's best to let things sidle up next to you, share a few sips of whatnot and listen instead of just waiting for our turn to talk.
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