Patterson Hood accidentally wrote an album. He didn’t want to, and wasn’t trying to, but sometimes the songs just come out.
Fronting Drive-by Truckers has kept Patterson busy, releasing nine studio albums, two live albums, two collection albums, and two collaboration albums. Plus he’s released two previous solo records—not to mention the thousands and thousands of tour dates over the past decade. Patterson was just looking for some time off, and the only plan he had was to not make an album.
Well, the next part of this story will probably piss off some musicians, because while making every effort not to create music, Patterson wrote his most introspective, honest, and effortlessly personal record yet, and it’s fantastic.
With some artists, it can be difficult to discern the differences between or motivation behind a solo album versus a band album. Sometimes there’s a clear artistic reason, and sometimes everybody’s just sick of putting up with the drummer’s shit. For Patterson, it’s clearly the former. For one thing, Truckers’ drummer Brad Morgan plays on the solo album, and, as mentioned before, the record is outstanding and also completely unique from a DBT album.
Patterson has proven himself to be one of the best character writers in rock and roll. The stories he tells are unrivaled and excellently crafted, but on Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance, Hood abandons his characters and sings directly from the first person, removing all filters and veils, to simply tell his stories. These songs weren’t written, they were lived.
Production wise, Heat Lightning leaves a lot more space on the songs than most Trucker albums, and it’s safe to say, definitively, this album has a shit load more cello than any Drive-by Trucker record ever has. However, DBT fans are still going to find a lot of familiar names in the album credits.
Not only does Morgan play on the album, Mike Cooley even shows up for a little banjo, Jay Gonzales adds some amazing touches on piano, John Neff’s pedal steel will break the levy on your tear ducts, and Patterson’s father, the legendary David Hood is on bass, splitting duty with David Barbe. Guest vocalists include Will Johnson (grab an MP3 from Will), and the incomparable Kelly Hogan.
Hogan actually co-wrote and sings on our featured track “Come Back Little Star,” an emotional tribute to Vic Chesnutt. The genius and skill of Chesnutt can in no way be captured in one paragraph within another album’s review, so suffice it to say, if you don’t know, you better start looking him up.
The song is a personal plea to a friend who has passed and focuses less on who Chesnutt was as a musicians and more of who he was as a person, and what that loss means to Hood and Hogan.
You can download “Come Back Little Star” below: