I Do Believe I Understand Now
[Ruth Street Records]
For those unaware, Patterson Hood is a founding member of the Drive-By Truckers. This is his second solo release. Patterson is a great storyteller. He could tell you about a trip to the grocery store, and it would hold your attention. He's also a great interview on various topics. He was once either interviewed or wrote a short article on Michael Jackson long before he died, and it made you want to go buy Off the Wall.
I bought this CD and after reading the liner notes (not one to just put basic information about the recording, Hood writes a full page about the history of this release, as well as gives detailed stories about each song), I realize that Hood put this out on what would appear to be his own label. Realizing this made me so glad I purchased the CD. Those of you who have a record player should buy it on vinyl, as it has three more songs on that version.
While the Drive-By Truckers are my favorite band, I've yet to find an album without at least 2 songs that I didn't care for, and unfortunately, a Hood song always seems to be one of those. It's to be expected when he writes the most tunes. However, every song on this album is very listenable, if not just plain good. They each stand on their own and provide diverse influences; the songs DON'T all sound the same.
Probably the oldest song on the album is an old Adam's House Cat tune called "Pollyana":
In the past couple of years I've also started to notice that I enjoy hearing how each voice and instrument works with each other within a band or song. I've had friends who have seen the DBT and said that it either wasn't very good, or it was boring. From the live performances I have seen of them in the past 3 years, either in person, or on various videos with quality sound production, I can't understand this. The vocal harmonies and the way the different instruments layer on top of each other just amaze me with this band, and Hood carries that onto this release. At times, the results are just haunting. Part of this comes with the addition of John Neff's pedal steel guitar.
Neff's playing is probably the most unique I've heard on the pedal steel. He does things with a pedal steel that I have never heard. He adds ambience to a song without you even knowing he's there. Maybe I'm just uneducated in the world of pedal steel guitar players, but he doesn't just play the typical riffs, or overtake the songs as is likely to happen in some traditional country songs.
One example of this is "Pride of the Yankees"; in this tune, the pedal steel reminds me of hot Pensacola days, the apartment sliding glass door revealing bright, blue sky and sunshine. My A/C is cranked back to 68 degrees, and I'm sitting on my filthy futon, watching TV and shoveling down a Whataburger #1 meal off a fold-away, TV tray. I miss those lazy days.
"Belvedere" is a character sketch of a dirty, old man, and the music matches the creepiness of the fellow. This is the song that haunts me the most after "Pride of the Yankees".
But lest you believe that it's all haunting, creepy tunes, "I Understand Now" is upbeat and similar to the vibe of the Trucker's "Do It Yourself", even though that song was not as positive as "I Understand Now". This may very well be the most positive song that Hood has written.
"Walking Around Sense" is great, warm, rainy day music. This song reminds me of a more mature "Plastic Flowers on the Highway". The piano really makes this song, along with the intertwined lead guitars. I really dig the minute-plus guitar solo at the end of this one. It's got a plodding, Crazy Horse feel to it.
If you're going to end an album, and they all must come to an end, I really can't think of any better album-ending tune than "Back of a Bible". Oh sure, I've heard songs that do just as good of a job as this one, but it doesn't get any better than this. I hear the beat of Wings' "Let Me Roll It" in this one, which makes me wonder since DBT covered it, if a little didn't rub off on this tune.
Hood took his time with this one, and it shows. Compared to his first release, Killers and Stars, the two couldn't be any more different. That one had a demo-tape feel, and at times, seemed rushed. Both DBT fansand fans of good music with tons of American folk, soul, rock and country influences should be able to sink their teeth into this one.