Drive-By Truckers celebrate roots on ’Go-Go Boots’
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — David Hood did everything he could to keep his son out of the music business except tie the boy down.
Despite his own success as the bassist in the historic Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Hood didn’t want his son, The Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood, following his path.
So he barred the kid from his sessions at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in north Alabama where he played for seminal acts like Percy Sledge, The Staples Singers, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon and Rod Stewart. He declared his mind-blowing record collection off limits to little fingers. And when The Rolling Stones came to town he bought plane tickets and sent 5-year-old Patterson and his mother to his grandparents in Aruba.
“So he not only had us out of town, he had us out of the country,” the younger Hood said.
When Patterson took a job at a pharmacy in his teens, Hood was elated. Maybe his son would become a doctor or a pharmacist.
“Somebody that might be able to help an old musician,” the elder Hood said with a smile. “Or just get me through the night.”
It was false hope, though. Patterson fell in love with music, of course. How could he not? And worse, he wanted to be in a ... punk rock band.
These days the Hoods chuckle over the long, winding path that led Patterson to his own place in the rock ’n’ roll world with The Drive-By Truckers. But Patterson Hood, 46, still remembers the look on his father’s face when he started sharing his music with him.
“I wasn’t very good at it and he couldn’t see that there might be potential,” Patterson Hood said. “Because he knew how hard the business was — ’And he’s wanting to do this? He sucks. And he’s my son.’ You know?”
Decades later David Hood, 67, has a very different opinion of his son’s career path. Patterson and his band of friends have forged the kind of career David Hood could never have imagined. With their sprawling, cinematic songs, incendiary live show and tireless touring schedule, they’ve carved out their own niche and earned a fervent following.
These days David Hood even takes the stage with The Truckers occasionally, as he did at a recent show at Third Man Records.
And he’s got no problem admitting he was wrong about Patterson and his dream.
“Anybody who makes it now or is surviving now in music, it’s amazing,” David Hood said. “It’s a sad state. But they’re doing so well. Their story is not sad. Their story is happy.”
The Truckers have just released their second album in a year, “Go-Go Boots,” a foray into country soul that celebrates the sound of Hood’s childhood. The 15-year-old band, an extension of a musical partnership between Hood and bandmate Mike Cooley that has survived 26 years and a shifting roster of collaborators and names, began recording the songs for the album in 2009 alongside the straight-ahead rockers that became 2010’s “The Big To-Do.” They had that Muscle Shoals feel to them and many of the songs recalled snatches of real life played out in northern Alabama.
The album revolves around “Go-Go Boots” and “The Fireplace Poker,” a pair of related songs about a duplicitous preacher who pays to have his wife killed, then pays the price for his sins. Like the band’s epic breakthrough, “Southern Rock Opera,” the songs are based on an idea Hood had for a film.
A handful of others — especially the melancholy groove of “Used to be a Cop” and unhappy holidays song “The Thanksgiving Filter” — also have that sprawling feel of a story told over hours, not minutes.
“I’m a frustrated filmmaker when it really comes down to it,” said Patterson Hood, who now lives in Athens, Ga. “If you look at our albums as movies without the movie, they actually make more sense than they do as albums. That didn’t dawn on me till just about two albums or so ago — ’Wow, that’s what’s wrong with this picture.”’
Cooley contributes three country-tinged songs, rivaling Hood as a storyteller with songs such as the wistful “Pulaski” that play out like shorts stories. The band rounds out the album with a couple of covers of songs by Eddie Hinton, a soul singer and songwriter who played in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section from 1967 to 1971.
It’s an album that’s beautiful and moving, while gritty and raw, and shows a band at the height of its creative powers. Hood and Cooley, 44, spent much of their early years together in a band that eventually fell apart, then nursed The Truckers through difficult times, some of which are outlined in the 2009 documentary “The Secret to a Happy Ending.”
The tough times are over and “Go-Go Boots” serves as a milepost marker far down the road to rock ’n’ roll success. Houses have been purchased, families started and plans built upon a concrete foundation.
“I feel we can do this as long as we are able and want to,” Cooley said. “I don’t think it’s one of those things that just peaks, then becomes a little less popular. You know, we’ve never had a hit record. Thank God! It’s downhill from there.”
It’s the kind of career that can make a father proud — and a grandfather of musically inclined grandchildren reconsider his opinions.
“I know from experience now that you can’t stop them,” David Hood said. “If one of them’s going to do it, they’re going to do it, and so you better just go ahead and give them all the help you can. I think my son may have a musician in his son, and my daughter’s son shows some aptitude. They’re all crazy kids. I think anyone of them could be something.”
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