Patterson Hood – Bowery Ballroom, NY NY 9.17.12

Patterson Hood is a natural born storyteller. Whether he’s working his day job fronting Drive-By Truckers, writing songs for solo projects, or penning razor sharp song descriptions in his album’s accompanying liner notes, Hood commands attention with his words. In a live setting, his southern charm, painstaking attention to detail, and unbridled enthusiasm for his craft always resonate with the audience, inspiring yelps of devotion from long-time fans and rapt attention from newbies who otherwise may have spent the bulk of an unfamiliar show chatting idly away or disappearing into the lens of their iPhones.  He’s an entertainer, and a damn fine one at that.  He’s also a throwback, a rock star that makes his living playing night in and night out, hopscotching around the globe bringing his rock and roll revivals to towns and venues both small and large.

Touring behind the release of the excellent solo album, Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance, Hood rolled into New York City Monday night with the Downtown Rumblers, his five-piece backing band, featuring DBT-mates Brad Morgan on drums and Jay Gonzalez on keys, alongside cellist Jacob Morris, and the hard-working duo of Claire and Page Campbell, who opened the show under the guise of their sweet-sounding band, Hope For Agoldensummer.  Adding engaging harmonies and playing everything from guitar to banjo to tambourine to swinging saw, the Campbell cousins provided a melodious and rustic touch to Hood’s hard-scrabble and oftentimes bleak narratives.  As both accompanists and front women, they’re definitely an act worth keeping track of. 

As for Hood, his prowess as a raconteur was evident from the beginning as he prefaced his opening number, “12:01” with a richly textured explanation of the “Blue” laws in Alabama that comprise the exposition of that song.  From there, Hood was locked in, spending the next two hours showcasing new songs, pulling out some old solo nuggets, and weaving in a couple re-arranged DBT tracks like the surprisingly plaintive and slowed-to-a-dirge “The Righteous Path”.   In between, Hood kept the audience on its collective toes with his banter and penchant for explanation.  He hit the laughs with an anecdote about his recent awkward encounter with Tom T. Hall, which served as a perfect segue into “Pay No Attention to Alice,” got wistful when dedicating songs like “Pride of the Yankees” to his daughter, and proved his devotion to his wife back home with “Back of a Bible.” 

However, those that are familiar with his oeuvre know that Hood prefers the amps turned up and the intensity dialed to the max.  This side was on display as he menacingly stomped and snarled his way through kickers like Heat Lightning standouts, “Better Than The Truth,” and “Betty Ford,” ace Big Star cover “September Gurls,” and the raucous show closer, “Bulldozers and Dirt.” By show’s end, Hood was caked in sweat, kneeling on the ground, grinning, and testifying to the power and force of the rock gods.  It was of little consequence that the Monday night crowd was just a little smaller and a little more subdued than a typical DBT packed house.  Nor did it matter that the assembled musicians played with a little more nuance and attention to detail than the normal DBT bombast.  Patterson Hood puts his entire being into his performances and the crowd is always assured of getting its money’s worth.

Patterson Hood and The Downtown Rumblers
Bowery Ballroom, NYC 9/172012
Leaving Time
Little Bonnie
Pride of the Yankees
Daddy Needs a Drink
Better Than The Truth
September Gurls
After The Damage
Uncle Disney
(Untold Pretties)
Pay No Attention To Alice
Betty Ford
Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
Come Back Little Star
Fifteen Days (Leaving Time)
The Righteous Path
Better Off Without
A World of Hurt
Back of a Bible
Bulldozers and Dirt

Photo by Andy Tennillee

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