Patterson Hood 

Killers and Stars

Yes, Virginia, there were Drive-By Truckers albums before a bandwagon of critics hailed the Alabama natives' Southern Rock Opera and Decoration Day as the rebirth of the Confederate Guitar Army. The Truckers have, in fact, been around for eons, and the first officially released solo record by frontman Patterson Hood harks back to those less celebratory, pre-SRO days (see the excellently named disc Pizza Deliverance), when no one north of the Mason-Dixon line had ever heard of 'em.

Recorded alone in a dining room over two turbulent, just-divorced days in 2001, Hood's moody folk songs are slower and darker than the Truckers' current fist-pumping material. And while some might offer comparisons between Killers and Stars and Nebraska -- another home recording, remember -- Hood's self-imposed exile fosters a rage more aligned with a dormant Charlie Starkweather than Springsteen. Killers offers no invitation to meet on the boardwalk, no longed-for mansions, no "Reason to Believe." Witness the mournful moanings of an assassin (She was the most beautiful thing that I have ever killed), the thawing of a cryogenically chilled Walt Disney, Belinda Carlisle's abandonment of her punk resolve, empathy for the tragic actress Frances Farmer, the disoriented wanderings of a memory-deficient grandfather (He's forgotten what he's looking for), and an inspired cover of Tom T. Hall's "Pay No Attention to Alice." They're all true representations of the Southern gothic spirit, as well as evidence of the power that can be derived from loss.

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