Drive-By Truckers fans may well be some of the most loyal in rock and roll. They may also be the most patient.
Riding shotgun with the band through a career of bumps, twists and turns, where lineup changes seemed to accompany each album release, the fan-base has flourished. Yet, despite a rich cycle of studio releases every year or two since 1999, the fans’ patience has been tested by side projects.
Recorded in 2001, frontman Patterson Hood’s Killers and Stars didn’t receive an “official” introduction until its 2004 New West Records release. Then-guitarist Jason Isbell’s solo debut, Sirens of the Ditch, took root in 2003, and Hood’s Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs), written shortly after his arrival in Athens, Georgia, in 1994, wasn’t recorded until 2005. Despite a fan-fueled petition encouraging the release of both albums, Sirens of the Ditch didn’t win the race to the record store shelves until 2007, and now, after 15 years in the hopper, Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) has finally arrived.
Opening with the hollow-eyed title track, Hood makes it clear that the gun above the fireplace won’t remain untouched for long. Like much of his songwriting, the grotesque reverence of Southern culture is rife with truth and fiction. “Pollyana” – one of the strongest of the album (not to mention the oldest) – burns amber; electric guitars elevating oblique mental clarity, both thrilling and threatening. In contrast, “Granddaddy,” the first love song to his daughter, Ava, is one of several tender splashes of honey in an undercurrent of gasoline. And whether grappling with regret or fighting for redemption, Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) further scores the sandpaper emotion that Hood brandishes with each stroke of the pen.
The liner notes of Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) pin the origins of “Foolish Young Bastard” on a former manager who “was always using salt when sugar would work better.” Patterson Hood clearly knows the difference between salt and sugar, and for their patience, the fans get to lick the spoon.
Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) is out now on New West Records.