Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Patterson Hood

  • Killers and Stars [New West, 2004] **
  • Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) [Ruth St., 2009] A-
  • Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance [ATO, 2012] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Killers and Stars [New West, 2004]
Sketches and disses living-room style, with a sweet kissoff for Chan Marshall ("Uncle Disney," "Old Timers Disease") **

Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) [Ruth St., 2009]
Shortly after the 2004 living-room collection Killers and Stars, the Drive-By Trucker and great American songwriter figured out a better way to make a solo album: not just with a band, duh, but with never-recorded mementos of his intermittently wasted late 20s juxtaposed against tokens of fatherhood at 40 and other life satisfactions. Took a while to get off the back burner, but the simmering helped it blend. Hood is too inclined toward dark-side thoughts and the world too inclined toward dark-side realities for the newer songs to come off complacent. But like the best Nashville vets, he knows enough to root both "Granddaddy," an optimistic take on having a kid, and "Pride of the Yankees," a worried one, in telling details, personal and historical respectively. The alt-rock vet he is takes time to level a few harsh words at old fling Courtney Love. But here's one thing that makes him a great American songwriter--they're tempered by kind ones. A-

Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance [ATO, 2012]
Hood earned this avowedly autobiographical album by creating fictional and fictionalized characters for 20 years. Its dozen songs were conceived to bait a memoiristic account of a turbulent period or two in his twenties, but the book stopped coming midway through so he made an album out of them instead. Sweetly skeletal arrangements featuring various bandmates and his bassist dad underpin the quietest and most winning singing of his career, with lyrics so crystalline you never need the booklet. But you can bet their import would be clearer if the book was there too. B+

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