Patterson Hood is best known as a co-founder of the acclaimed Southern rock back, Drive-By Truckers. His new solo album called, "Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)" contains a few songs written in the early 90s before the Truckers reformed as well as more recent songs, all of them freshly recorded over the past few years. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

(Soundbite of song, "I Understand Now")

Mr. PATTERSON HOOD (Singer): (Singing) Uncle Phil said to me that woman will be the death of me. But I don't think there's anything I can do. She's got ways I don't understand putting words into my mouth. Things I just can't get used to. But then she dropped the cornbread in the kitchen. Uncle Phil smiled as if she'd just done the greatest thing. I'm not sure if I understood then. But I guarantee I understand now. My cousin screwed up without a doubt…

TUCKER: On that song, "I Understand Now," Patterson Hood sings about the value of growing ups and starting to comprehend with life that is heard long ago. He sings of quote "appreciating the value of generation's changing hands." This is in keeping with the music Hood makes with his bands that Drive-By Truckers, which is often all tied up in deep Southern roots and history. But many of these solo songs are also tight little snapshots of moments and people and feelings, such as this one, "She's A Little Randy."

(Soundbite of song, "She's A Little Randy")

Mr. HOOD: (Singing) She's a little randy for something she ain't got. A man a little handy this summer sure is hot. Maybe fix some iced tea or lemonade. She's a little randy for some fanning in the shade.

TUCKER: Also playing on this record is Hood's father - David Hood, a highly regarded bass player for the great Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The senior Hood has done session work with scores of great musicians including Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon. In another gesture of generation's changing hands the father accompanies the son on one of the strongest tracks on this album, "Back of a Bible." It's about a guy who writes a love song on the back page of the good book. "Back of a Bible" has a terrific narrative flow. A whole short story compressed in a three verse song.

(Soundbite of song, "Back of a Bible")

Mr. HOOD: (Singing) I wrote you a love song on the back of a Bible, on the back of a Bible, a love song for you, I ain't no authority about what it says in it, can't even begin it. But that page in the back is blank and waiting for you, heard me a sad song…

TUCKER: The songs on this album gather their power from Patterson Hood's articulated drawl and the creepy crawl of guitar chords and drum patterns. Nowhere is that more true than on the title song - a homicidal scenario whose content is some kind of cross between Johnny Cash and Eminem.

(Soundbite of song, "Murdering Oscar")

TUCKER: You believe this vehement narrator when he yowls I killed Oscar before he killed me. You also believe him when he said these quote, "happy, happy, happy and that he doesn't need salvation or redemption." This is one cold character.

(Soundbite of song, "Murdering Oscar")

Mr. HOOD: (Singing) I killed Oscar, shot him in the head, put the gun in his mouth, watched his brains fly out, saw my worries fade as the hole got bigger, solved all my problems with a trigger. I don't need forgiveness for my sins I don't need redemption for my sins. Got the satisfaction of a job well done with my own bare hands…

TUCKER: Where the music made by the Drive-By Truckers can expand to epic proportions without becoming overblown, Patterson Hood's solo songs are smaller scale, more intimate. They tap into feelings of longing and regret but also into fantasies that can be sexy or frightening. It seems on the evidence of these songs old and new that Patterson Hood has a gift for both common man stories and a jarring Southern surrealism. But you don't have to be Southern boy with a dad who played bass on the Staple Singers, "I'll Take You There" to enjoy the places Patterson Hood will take you.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed the new solo album by Patterson Hood called "Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)." You can download Podcasts of our show on our Web site freshair.npr.org.

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