VISITING ACT: Patterson Hood 

Trucker on the Side: Patterson Hood sneaks in a special solo set

Patterson Hood Patterson Hood
Sat. Oct. 11
7 p.m.
$15, $13/adv.
Pour House (on the deck)
1977 Maybank Hwy.
(843) 571-4343

Patterson Hood's hoarse and heartfelt solo work ain't that much of a far cry from the gritty Americana rockstuff of The Drive-By Truckers, but it's definitely more intimate and immediate. As the guitarist and main songwriter with the longtime Athens, Ga.-based group, Hood has established himself as an effective frontman, capable of bellowing anthems rougher than Skynyrd and ballads sweeter then The Band. On the side, away from the large amplifier cabinets and big-sound rhythm section, his no-frills solo performances can be magically subtle and moving in a different way.

"I'll be playing there totally by myself, so anything goes," says Hood of his on-the-deck solo set scheduled for Saturday evening. "I love doing it that way. I like Charleston and I'm excited about coming. I might bring the family with me, but I might just get in and get out, since I'm only home [in Athens] for a short time."

The Truckers last played in Charleston in May at the Music Farm in support of a double-length studio album titled Brighter than Creation's Dark — a 19-song follow-up to A Blessing and a Curse. Since last winter, Hood, guitarist/vocalist Mike Cooley, drummer Brad Morgan, bassist Shonna Tucker, and newly-added guitarist/pedal steel player John Neff have toured quite heavily through the States, the U.K., and Europe.

"With the changes the Truckers went through [in the lineup] in the last year or so, the musicians in my usual solo band pretty much got absorbed by the Truckers," says Hood. "Now, there's almost too much in common between them! I try to keep things separate, but it seems that every time I find somebody great to play with my solo band, they end up in the Truckers. And that's great."

Hood was always a serious and prolific songwriter, but through the late '90s he blossomed as a musician and bandleader. 1998's Truckers debut, Gangstabilly, and 1999's Pizza Deliverance were lo-fi studio albums full of gutsy enthusiasm and Southern lingo. The self-released 1999 live album Alabama Ass Whuppin' cranked things up a notch and revealed a grittier, more rockin' side of the band. But by the independent release of 2000's ambitious concept album Southern Rock Opera, Hood found himself acting less like a proper bandleader and more like a ringmaster alongside a rotation of frontguys. During that period, the Truckers enjoyed a solid lineup featuring Morgan on drums, Cooley and Rob Malone on guitars and vocals, and Earl Hicks on bass guitar.

In 2002, the band signed with Lost Highway Records, which re-released the two-disc Southern Rock Opera. After a shake-up in the labels' top office, the band split amicably with Lost Highway and signed with the Los Angeles/Austin-based label New West Records.

In 2003-'04, guitarist Jason Isbell joined the band (replacing Malone) and contributed two great songs (including the title cut) to the 15-song album Decoration Day, which reflected a more collaborative songwriting effort between the bandmembers.

The stories in the songs themselves reflect what Hood calls a two-year period of turmoil that the band had gone through surrounding the making of Southern Rock Opera. "It more or less became an album about choices, good and bad, right and wrong, and the consequences of those choices," he remembers.

Despite the busy activity within the Truckers' camp during this time, Hood recorded his first proper solo collection. He tracked Killers and Stars by himself in his kitchen in Athens in 2001 and 2002. He arranged and mixed most of the 12 songs during the making of Decoration Day, working more from a burst of creative energy than with a specific intention of making a solo album. The low-key collection quickly became a treasured gem among hardcore Truckers fans.

Hood and the Truckers have barely taken a break in the last few years. They recently survived mini-tours with The Avett Brothers, GOAT, and The Hold Steady. Earlier in the year, they completed contractual obligations with New West and decided to look elsewhere for support for their next releases.

In the midst of the breakaway, his forthcoming solo album seems stuck in limbo. Titled Murdering Oscar, the long-awaited collection is in the can, yet still officially unavailable. The recordings feature Muscle Shoals veteran bassist David Hood (Patterson's father), as well as bandmates Morgan, Neff, and various guest musicians.

"It's still on hold," Hood says of Murdering Oscar. "It got all tied up when we parted ways with New West. I had a clause in the contract giving me the right to do a solo record, and for them to have the right of first refusal on it. We never could come to a deal, though. I ended up sitting on it for three years. Now that our deal is over, I'm wanting to walk with it. I own it. It's mine altogether, and yet they still kind of have a weird claim to it. We haven't been able to hash it out. I'd really like to put it out early next year when there's a break with the band stuff."

While fans have to wait for the official release of Hood's latest collection, they can hear much of it at the Pour House during his set — along with a variety of deep cuts and old favorites as well as a few unusual surprises.

"I'm pretty comfortable up there," says Hood. "My stage fright would be more with talking with people than the actual playing part. It's pretty good, particularly right now; its not like I'm not warmed up, because we've played a lot of shows recently. My chops are in okay form. My weak link playing solo used to be my weakness as a guitar player. I wasn't as solid as I could have been. But I've improved. I'm going to play a lot of solo stuff from the first album, this new one, plus plenty of songs from the Truckers albums. I'll take some requests and do a little bit of everything."


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