Drive By Truckers

By Caley Cook

Southern Opera

Don't s'pose y'all heard of Patterson Hood? A hop, skip and a few states over, this here Muscle Shoals kid is fixin' to erect nothing short of a Southern legend, but all he wants right now is a bit of solid shut-eye.

What would you do with a day off?

“Sleep,” he says through a lumbering Alabama drawl.

What would you do with two days off?

“Sleep,” he sighs. “Oh, want me to come up with something better? I could go jet set over to hang out at Tommy Lee's house and snort blow off, uh, well, n'vermind.”

Hood doesn't seem to have the pluck to say it, but he doesn't give a rat's ass about any Hollywood rocker from the wrong side of the Mason Dixon. Thirteen months into a solid tour in support of the Drive-By Truckers' intrepid opus, Southern Rock Opera, Hood and the band-Mike Cooley, Earl Hicks, Rob Malone and Brad Morgan-have aurally deconstructed the mystique and misconception of the South.

The Truckers' used their Rock Opera (which was re-released by Lost Highway in July) to haul their audience back to the 1970s when Ronnie Van Zandt wasn't retired to a swamp, George Wallace stalked the steps of segregated education and rock operas stacked the shelves of record stores. The result has fans coming out of the woodwork in places like Europe.

Europe?!

“There's definitely a big appreciation for Southern culture over there,” Hood says. “Southern soul music is a big deal to people over there, whereas over here you meet aficionados that are really into it but its not as widespread, beloved thing. The fact that four out of five of us came from Muscle Shoals-which is kind of one of the Southern soul landmarks-becomes part of the story over there.”

“We've been playin' pretty much nonstop since July,” he says, stressing the ‘u' in July to its breaking point. “I don't really know how many shows we've played. We've put 20,000 miles on our van since then.”

And don't you think there ain't more to come, neither. The band's week at home is a deceptive “break from the road” to finish mixing their newest oeuvre, Decoration Day.

“It'll be March when the record comes out I b'lieve,” he says. “But we're about to head back out on the road so we're kinda having to knock it out while we're home. We're gettin' enough done as far as the record concerned but we're not havin' too much personal time, ya know? It's comin' along real good.”

As well it should. Raised in Alabama-his daddy was famous Lynyrd Synyrd session bassist David Hood-Patterson took an early liking to guitar. In a place where football is what boys do, Hood is all smiles that folks have stopped calling him a “guitar-totin' pussy” and started diggin' the Drive-By Trucker grooves.

“The record's gotten attention way beyond my wildest hopes,” he says. “We didn't know if people would like it or what. So I'm definitely happy... particularly when people told us how crazy we were to make a record entirely based off a screenplay about Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's nice to have a little encouragement to know we're not totally crazy-we're definitely a little crazy but not totally.”

So, for now, Hood is gonna get out of his car and get the gumption to finish mixin' his record for everyone to hear. Because, folks, there ain't nothin' else left for a Southerner who don't play football. And if you like the tunes, Patterson Hood is mighty grateful. Everyone else can kiss his candy white Southern ass.