Athens Georgia's Finest:
Patterson Hood’s 2010 Guitar Pull
By James Calemine
A cold wind swirled down the streets of Athens, Georgia, on the evening of February 24. Wednesday night’s Guitar Pull was hosted by The Drive By Truckers’ Patterson Hood at the Fabulous 40-Watt Club. This counts as the fourth year Hood orchestrated such an indelible event, which donates all proceeds to the local Robert Osborn Film Festival.
This songwriter-in-the-round featured Athens, Georgia’s, finest songwriters such as Hood, Daniel Hutchens, William Tonks, Dave Marr, Don Chambers, Truckers Brad Morgan and John Neff as well as Athens producer/songwriter David Barbe. What a collection of players…
During sound-check they worked out sound levels and ran through a few songs. At one point when snapping several photos of each songwriter, I thanked Patterson for the previous day’s interview. He told me he conducted eight interviews Tuesday…jeez, eight interviews in a day…a day in the life of Patterson Hood. The day before, Patterson told me about the origins of his alliance with The Robert Osborn Film Festival:
“Well, I’m an old movie nut. They have a Classic Film Festival in town they do and actually we went the first year they did it in 05. It was the weekend before my daughter was born. My wife was nine months pregnant; it snowed that weekend so the attendance was dismal. We live a block from The Classic Center where it takes place and we were having our baby the following Monday. We thought it was a great weekend to spend in this auditorium and watch old movies on a huge screen. It was amazing. They showed a virgin print of Hud that had never been projected. Amazing stuff. We had the greatest time. I told my wife because of the snow attendance was bad that year, and I hoped they would be able to keep doing it. So I found out who was putting it on and I emailed them and offered to do a benefit to help with any money issues and they took me up on it. I’ve done it every year since. Now, my wife and I are on the board of the Classic Film Festival. It’s just something I do…”
Bass guitar extraordinaire Jon Mills gave me a copy David Barbe & The Quick Hooks new CD Love It, Don’t Choke It To Death, which is a Spooner Oldham quote. Jon plays bass in Barbe’s band The Quick Hooks as well as Hutchens and Widespread Panic drummer Todd Nance’s Romper Stompers. The Quick Hooks will be opening for The Truckers for some upcoming shows--two this weekend in Virginia. These guys play on each other’s music so much, it creates quite a web of local collaboration. More news on Jon Mills, Bloodkin and Widespread Panic soon. I conducted a short, but interesting interview with the director of The Robert Osborn Film Festival, and I’ll have that feature article complete before the opening day of March 25.
After sound-check, Danny and I ducked into Sons of Italy for a slice of pizza. Upon returning to the 40-Watt, I sat in an ante-room filled with vintage guitars, amps and gear with Danny while he was interviewed for a film regarding the February 19 and 20 tribute to Vic Chesnutt here in Athens a few days ago where Danny, Patterson and many others performed. During the evening it was good to see familiar faces such as Kristy Hutchens, Sloan Simpson, Jayne Clamp, Craig Lieske, the Trucker’s web guru Jen Bryant and The Drive By Truckers’ talented Shonna Tucker. After this show, the Truckers were hopping on the tour bus to begin the first night of The Big To-Do tour in Charlotte.
Now, as far as the show itself, you couldn’t ask for more. Brad Morgan (drums), David Barbe (bass), William Tonks (guitar/dobro/slide) and John Neff (pedal steel/guitar) accompanied each songwriter on his compositions. Hood, Hutchens, Tonks, Marr and Chambers all sang their own material. I haven’t seen Dave Marr since he played in the Star Room Boys many years ago and tonight was the first time I met him. I liked him instantaneously because of his quick humor, but what a great country voice. It would be nice to hear more of his music. Don Chambers played a couple of songs from his Zebulon CD as well as a couple I’d never heard. His rendition of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” sounded great.
Onto Mr. William Tonks. He’s one of the most talented players I know. Look for his next Swampland article soon. His songs “Painter Paints”, “Home Or Away” and “Louisiana Truck Stop” showcased his musicianship and songwriting. Pound for pound, Tonks ranks as the best musician on the stage. Between Tonks and John Neff, they cover a wide-range of instruments. Neff’s pedal steel guitar playing never cease to amaze by the emotive sonic landscapes his playing creates.
Danny Hutchens’ new song—in the spirit of the film festival—“Jack Nicholson’s Grin”, “Rotgut” and “Limb From Limb” proved my favorites of his for the evening. Danny played an electric guitar all night and his songs drew high praise from those in attendance. Patterson’s new Truckers song “This Fucking Job”, “Uncle Disney”, “Heathens” and “Sinkhole” indicated how powerful his songs can be no matter how they are de-constructed or performed
The musicians drew names out of a fish bowl indicating winners from the audience to see films at next month’s film festival. Light-hearted stories and jokes were afoot on the stage between songs. David Barbe sang a mighty fine lead vocal on The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations”. Tonks led the gang through a fantastically humorous version of The Beatles’ “Happy Birthday”. These guys have played so many shows together collectively, and know so many of the same songs they could have played until 6 in the morning, but they ended the show at 2. Luckily, the performance was recorded to preserve this incandescent magic from some of Athens’ most talented musicians.