When is a new album not a new album? 15 years ago, Patterson Hood moved to Athens, Ga. without knowing a soul and began writing songs and recording them in his roommate's more acoustically friendly bedroom. Hood collected the resulting tunes on cassettes then compiled a handful onto a single tape entitled "Murdering Oscar (and other love songs)" that he gave away by the hundreds at the time. After reconnecting with Mike Cooley and forming the first iteration of Drive-By Truckers, Hood shifted his writing toward his new band structure (assembling the framework of his magnum opus, "Southern Rock Opera," around this time) and shelved his solo songs.
A decade later, Hood revisited his earliest songs during a DBT hiatus. The first batch ultimately became Hood's debut solo acoustic album, "Killers and Stars," but the second collection spoke to its creator in a more electrically arranged fashion. Utilizing friends John Neff and Don Chambers, and Centro-matic buddies Will Johnson and Scott Danbom, as well as his famous father, veteran session bassist David Hood, the DBT frontman quickly recorded his first full band solo project. Unfortunately, fate and business intervened, and Hood was forced to bottom drawer the album, working on it piecemeal over the next four years.
Now a decade and a half after the first appearance of "Murdering Oscar (and other love songs)," Hood reprises his very first recordings with fuller arrangements of the songs under the same banner that graced that first tape. "Murdering Oscar" is clearly a lot closer to what Hood is doing now in DBT, but one of his intentions with revisiting these songs dating to his birth as a songwriter was to retain their intimacy and immediacy while expanding their sonic range.
Like DBT, Oscar exudes plenty of different styles, from the Big Star/Crazy Horse twangy roots/rock buzz of She's a Little Randy, the laconically incisive Walking Around Sense and the title track, the Paul Westerberg-as-folkgrass-fogey on Foolish Young Bastard and the even more stripped and simple Grandaddy. Hood taps into his inner pop and classic rock child on Pollyanna and Heavy and Hanging, respectively, and throws in a raspy, rattlingly lovely cover of Todd Rundgren's The Range War. With "Murdering Oscar," Patterson Hood once again proves that you don't necessarily need brand new songs to make a wonderfully fresh album.