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Patterson Hood and The Drive By Truckers

by Michael Buffalo Smith

Patterson Hood grew up in Florence Alabama, across the Tennessee River from Muscle Shoals. Patterson began writing songs when he was in third grade and began playing guitar in bands at about 14. His father is David Hood of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who played with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Cliff, Traffic, The Staple Singers, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart and many more.

In 1985 Patterson started a band with college roommate Mike Cooley called Adam's House Cat, who played together for six years, making an EP and an unreleased album. 

After Adam's House Cat broke up, Cooley and Hood moved to Memphis and later to Auburn,  Alabama playing shows as an acoustic duo called Virgil Kane and in a band called Horse Pussy before going separate ways.

Hood settled in Athens, Georgia in early 1994, playing solo anywhere they would let him. In 1996 he and Cooley reunited and formed Drive-By Truckers. In 1998 they released their first of six albums to date and hit the road with a vengeance. Nearly 2000 shows later, Drive-By Truckers is one of the most critically acclaimed bands in America.

GRITZ caught up with Patterson to get his thoughts on the latest Drive By Truckers album, his favorite music and the state of the Union.

Give me your thoughts on Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.The album is killer, and seems to me to have a more country style, more laid back in a way.

It's not really laid back, If it seems laid back you're not playing it loud enough. It does have a dark swampy mood about it and a lot more space in between the notes, which I feel is a really great thing, but it's about as intense as anything we've ever done, just in perhaps less obvious ways. I think it's our best album.

How did Jason Isbell come to leave the band?

It was time. It's all good.

Shonna Tucker really added a lot to the new album. Your thoughts on Shonna?

Shonna is a bad ass. She's a great bass player, a great writer and a great singer. She sings like teenaged Tanya Tucker, which is a very good thing.

Tell me about working with Spooner Oldham on the new record and tour.

He's the sweetest man on earth, a true living legend. He puts more in the  space between the notes than most people play in the notes. He's made of music.

Your friend and associate Dick Cooper is one of my good friends. Give me your thoughts on Cooper.

A true kung fu spirit.

I’d like to get you to give me your thoughts on David Hood.

He's my dad and my all time favorite bass player. An underrated producer, about as cool as anyone ever. He played bass on "I'll Take You There".

Tell me about your latest solo recording.

I recorded Murdering Oscar (and other love songs)  a couple of weeks before my daughter was born. My Dad played on it, which was really the first time we'd ever worked together. My friends in Centro-matic played on a lot of it as did most of the Truckers. It's a little poppier than most of DBT's albums.

What have been some of the high points of your career thus far?

Last year's Dirt Underneath Tour with Spooner Oldham sitting in and the album we recorded right after it (Brighter Than Creation's Dark). This tour right now might end up being my all-time favorite.

I hear you are  working with some young Athens bands. Is this true?

I co-produced (with Andy Baker) a new album by Don Chambers and GOAT. It is coming out this fall. They are a great band and it's a really fantastic album.

If I asked you to define “Southern rock,” how would you describe it?

A form of music very popular between 1969 and 1977. It's birth dates to around the later part of the session soul era around the time of the formation of The Allman Brothers Band and it mostly ended when Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane went down outside of McComb Mississippi in 1977. We made an album set in that era called Southern Rock Opera.  It's a bit of a redundant term, Southern Rock, as rock and roll came from the south anyway.

Give me your thoughts on the state of the music business in 2008.

A dying carcass that will hopefully fertilize the earth for a better model to take it's place. Most record labels have made one short-sided bad decision after another for two decades now and are now reaping what they have sowed. I'll dance on their grave with my guitar turned to ten.

Your prediction for the future of same?

Bands with something to say and some decent integrity will prosper and continue while the bullshit gets wiped off the face of the earth. Perhaps I'm an optimist.

What are your future plans as a solo artist as well as with The Truckers?

DBT is by far my top priority. Things are really great with the band right now, I think an all time high on about every level. I do want to put out the solo album I made a while back with my Dad and the Centro-matic guys. It's a real good album and I'm very proud of it. It's been bogged down in industry bullshit that has prevented it from getting released so far, but hopefully it's not going to  become one of those great "lost" albums.

What was the last book you read?

I am reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Just finished Schulz and Peanuts.

Who’s in your CD player?

Willie Dixon - Chess Box Set (disc three)

Who do you like in the Presidential race?

I'm liking Obama. He inspires people and could really dramatically improve things on a world wide level.

Can America be saved?

It had better be. Maybe Bush being such a hopeless fuckup has pushed the pendulum so far that it has to bounce back Herbert Hoover style. We can only pray.

Gritz wishes to thank Patterson as well as Traci Thomas. The introduction to this piece was paraphrased from Patterson’s website.

For more on Patterson and the Drive By Truckers, check out these Swampland links.

Drive By Truckers Southern (Dis)Comfort (2004)  by James Calemine

Patterson Hood Interview (2003) by Michael Buffalo Smith

Drive By Truckers: Keep On Truckin' (2001) by Dick Cooper

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Muscle Shoals,

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