Patterson Hood's "Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance"

Patterson Hood's "Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance"

  • Article by: Blake Boldt
  • Posted: 09/10/2012

As frontman of alt-country mainstay Drive-By Truckers, Patterson Hood has supplied gutsy and memorable songs for over a decade. Hood taps deep into the well of the South and its stark realism on his third solo album, Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance. Some of Hood's most valued contributors add aural dimension to his unvarnished folk-rock arrangements, with appearances from Hood's father, legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, as well as the Truckers themselves. Hood binds it all together with his shaggy drawl, gently reassuring and always in service of the song.

Heat Lightning began as a semi-autobiographical novel, and eventually segued into a collection of touching vignettes. Uncontent to follow the hottest current trends, Hood puts an emphasis on storytelling and not simply clever wordplay. The second half of Heat Lightning slightly outranks the first, with two songs in particular that are strikingly candid about life's intense challenges: “Betty Ford," the dark-toned account of an alcoholic plumbing the darkness in a battle against addiction, and "Depression Era," the dry-boned memoir of a fading patriarch worn down by everyday pressures.

The piano ballad “Come Back Little Star," written as a tribute to Vic Chesnutt, works as the album's emotional centerpiece. Lifted by Kelly Hogan's lilting harmony and John Neff's pedal steel, it offers that redemption is just around the corner. There are moments of anger ("I'm really not mad/I'm trying hard to understand"), but Hood uses the pain in a search for meaning. As he considers his state of disarray, he has the perspective of a bloodied battler who refuses to quit regardless of the cost.
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