For his third solo album, "Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance," singer, songwriter and Drive By Trucker Patterson Hood continues to create his own brand of American mythology, writing four minute elegies to a generation that's lost its way, one that's slowly slicing away at itself with a hard-edged blade of insecurity, confusion and loneliness.
Taken on the surface, it's not a pretty picture at all. 12:01 is a creeping, crawling dirge about a clandestine trip across the county line "where liquor laws are different," where "zombies" buy booze by the light of sunrise. "After The Damage" is equally dour, Hood's narrator speaking of paying his fines and accepting his defeat.
But underneath the sad and somber surface of the 12 songs, there an inherent beauty and, sometimes, even a bit humor. The beauty is in the song's sparse arrangements, in Hood's gentle poetry and especially in his plaintive voice, as fragile and tender as ever, sometimes sounding as if it were dust sifting through one's fingers. The humor, in one instance, is in the turn of a phrase. On Better Off Without, he sings about a girl "so sweet she rots my teeth when I kiss her."
Not for a minute is this a party record - or even one that should be played on the roadhouse jukebox next to Hank Williams or Steve Earle. But, heard in it's right place, in the dark of night and preferably alone, "Heat Lightning In The Distance" is a brilliant work, a beautiful portrayal of the human condition.
This post originally appeared on Country Standard Time.
Michael Verity is a writer, photographer and producer based in Portland, OR. He's regular contributor to Relix, American Songwriter, Country Standard Time and Acoustic Music Pinboard, among others.
He lives on a farm with his wife, two cats, three kids, four dogs and several thousand albums that never seem to find their way into alphabetical order.