A few years back I did a panel with Patterson Hood. The topic was Music Journalism, and while everyone knows Hood as the passionate leader of the Drive-By Truckers, he's also a hell of a writer and has dabbled in journalism, hence his seat at the table. More than anything that was said that afternoon, what I remember was Hood bouncing his brand new baby daughter on his knee as he spoke.
Although I was supposed to be illuminating prospective writers on how to form a pitch and what the proper follow-up protocol with an editor is, I was deep inside my own head trying to come to terms with Patterson Hood the family man. Is this the same guy who crushes bottles of Jack Daniels onstage, sweats all over the front row and sings about death, incest, war and all the other creepy things crawling around in the shadows?
Clearly it is, and as you get to know Patterson better, you realize this is what makes him who he is. He's not a Rebel Flag waving cartoon character or Southern stereotype. Not even close. He's complex, deep and fiercely intelligent. He's been singing about "the duality of the Southern thing" for more than a decade, but it's on his new solo album Murdering Oscar (and other love songs) (released June 23, 2009 on Ruth St. Records) that we get a complete picture of the duality of Patterson Hood.
With half the songs coming from his pissed-fucking-off younger days of 15 years ago and the other half from the calmer father of today, the unique circumstances behind the recording of this album allow us a very intimate and relatively complete view of the man. But unlike a "Best Of," which could also give one album the opportunity to tell a life-spanning tale, Murdering Oscar maintains continuity and has that album feel, not a cut-and-paste sample platter.
In between touring with the Truckers and working on their next studio album (due in 2010), finishing up the Live From Austin, TX CD/DVD (released July 6, 2009 on New West) and the upcoming September release of The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities and Rarities 2003-2008), as well as the album and tour with Booker T., Hood found time to finish Murdering Oscar. The majority of the basic tracks were cut as a trio featuring Hood, DBTs drummer Brad Morgan and bassist David Barbe (who also co-produced the album with Hood). Oscar was filled out by Truckers bandmates Mike Cooley (guitar), Shonna Tucker (bass) and John Neff (pedal steel/guitar) as well as Don Chambers and Centro-matic's Scott Danbom (keys/fiddle) and Will Johnson (guitar).
Calling from his studio while hard at work on the aforementioned upcoming Truckers album, Hood offered us the better part of his morning as we both downed a pot of coffee and discussed Murdering Oscar, his difficult childhood, bouts with depression and thoughts of suicide, divorce, the transition from Jason Isbell to John Neff and Jay Gonzalez in the DBTs, George Bush, recording with his dad, and of course, his precious daughter Ava Ruth Hood. Like he sings on "Goode's Field Road": "I've always been a family man deep down..."
JamBase: Murdering Oscar is a mix of songs from about fifteen years ago and some that are more recent, is that correct?
Hood: Yeah. I moved to Athens in the spring of '94. I wrote a bunch of songs including the title cut, and I didn't have a band or any studio time or any money so I made a cassette in my apartment of these songs and called it Murdering Oscar (and other love songs), and I stumbled across a copy of that cassette ten years later when I was about to take some time off from I guess "The Dirty South" tour. The Truckers were about to take a little bit of time [off]. I was having a daughter. And so I stumbled on those songs and I really thought they had held up and ended up kind of being inspired. But my life had changed drastically in the intervening ten years. And so I really liked the songs but I didn't necessarily feel that way anymore, so I kind of wrote some answer songs to it and then recorded it right around that same time, January of '05, right before my daughter was born. I was planning on putting it out that year and then because of music business bullshit reasons it never happened, so it's just now coming out.
JamBase: The album has a lot of continuity to it. It doesn't sound like an album of songs from fifteen years ago and songs from today. How did you make those fit, both sort of in temperament and vision but also just in the sound and sort of how you presented them?
Hood: I'm very much the same writer, although in a lot of ways I'm a real different person, if that makes sense. So, the points of view are pretty different from song to song. Like sometimes I would have the old song right next to the new song. I did that actually on several points in the sequence, like "Screwtopia" right before "Granddaddy." That's about as opposite a take on having children as you could possibly have. When I wrote "Screwtopia" I was just getting divorced and I was ten years, eleven years away from having my first kid, and at that time probably didn't really picture ever wanting to have one. I was pretty much the opposite of marital bliss, and so the sentiment of the song is kind of snotty or shitty a little bit, but I like the song a lot. And I wrote "Granddaddy" right before my daughter was born and it's probably the sweetest thing I've ever written, even though I think it probably still has a little bit of my sarcasm. But it's definitely my nicer side. I liked having those two songs right next to each other in the sequence. Usually on a Truckers record, so often Cooley and I write about the same things, and from usually pretty different points of view, sometimes even extremely different points of view, so it's almost like I kind of simulated the same thing, just on my own.
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