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Published: 2009/06/22
by Brian Robbins

Murdering Oscar (and other love songs) Patterson Hood

Ruth St. Records
I used to think that Paul Westerberg was the absolute master at writing clever, killer rock songs that said eff you but were somehow wistful at the same time.
I dont know but Patterson Hood (best known as the leader of the Drive-By Truckers) has written the best one of all.
Pollyanna, the second track on Hoods new solo album, Murdering Oscar (and other love songs), opens with perfect X-Pensive Winos chords (DBT-mate Mike Cooley assists in the sonic weaving) and Hoods this-is-the-real-shit vocal over Brad Morgans sparse-but-powerful drum pulse. Though you know that the relationship is doomed, theres still an air of hope. The stark sweetness and loss in the chorus: Pollyanna does not live here with aching background harmonies hits you right in the gut. By the time David Barbes bass comes chugging in on the second verse, Brad Morgans drums are locked in to stay and this song is rocking.
The twist that turns this from a really good Keith Richards-style cruncher into a Westerberg-like moment comes at 2:09 when things swing into the bridge and simple piano chords begin climbing the staircase built by Hood and Cooleys guitars.
The bed got sticky, the floor got sticky
The kitchen table went crashing down
I was sticky and she was sticky
Too bad she could not stick around
sings Hood with a faraway look in his voice; but before were lost and wallowing, the final verse slams in, all matter-of-fact way-it-is with perfect harmonies in the right places:
Everything just sticks to her like glue
But Im just something shes got stuck to the bottom of her shoe
And when shes through with me I guess Ill follow through
And wait for something new to stick to
And wham! were into the final chorus with that stark piano, John Neffs heartbreaker pedal steel, and the thickly-mixed guitars telling the tale: Pollyanna does not live here, man. It hurts, but it couldnt be any other way. Thats the deal.
Its perfect.
Those who (mistakenly or otherwise) shy away from full-fledged Truckers music, claiming theyre too Southern need to listen to this album Patterson Hood is everyman, from the love-struck/scared-to-death father of a newborn in Pride of The Yankees to the husband who finally gets it in I Understand Now. And even though there are fellow Truckers all over the place (drummer Brad Morgan is the albums MVP), this doesnt sound like a Truckers album its the voice of Patterson Hood; husband, father, son, observer, and teller of tales.
Even the confession and self-forgiveness of the title track is done in such a way that you can almost understand where the narrator is coming from. (It had to be done, dammit youre outta here, Oscar.) Whereas the voice of Wilcos Bull Black Nova is that of an out-of-control freaked-out creep you cant get away from quick enough, you want to buy Oscars slayer a beer after hes told you his story. Thats the way it is.
The sweetness is real (Pride of the Yankees and Grandaddy); the crunch reminds you of Neil Youngs ol Stray Gators at their best (with John Neff playing the part of Gator stringmaster Ben Keith); the humor and wisdom hold hands comfortably (Shes A Little Randy and Foolish Young Bastard).

Patterson Hood has recorded an album of songs that offers up everything from killer high school yearbook quotes to memorable epitaphs. Just about anyone should be able to listen to Murdering Oscar and find at least one song that makes them say, Damn he just nailed it. Maybe a few.

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