I moved to Athens GA on Aprils Fools Day, 1994. Perhaps I thought I was kidding. Just stopping in on my way to the bigger city an hour to the southwest. I moved into a little house on Ruth St with my new friend Brandon. I had a shitty job and only knew two other people in town. I was alive with the fresh opportunities posed by moving to a town with an actual music scene and clubs to conquer. I wrote an album’s worth of songs and called it Murdering Oscar (and other love songs).
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money for studio time, much less financing or support to actually release it. I also didn’t have a band and didn’t know any of the hundreds of musicians residing in my new hometown. Instead, I recorded all of the songs on a boom box in Brandon’s bedroom (it had better acoustics than my room) and began dubbing cassette copies to give to anyone I met. I probably gave away about 500 of those suckers that year.
Those were crazy times for me. The news told stories of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, River Phoenix’ overdose and OJ Simpson’s bloody glove. I was still reeling from a divorce, the breakup of my beloved old band, and moving away from my family. My songs of this period reflected this turmoil and I was fiercely proud of them.
The next year, I began writing what became Southern Rock Opera and also around that time Cooley and I reunited and began working on forming what became Drive-By Truckers and writing the songs that became our first two albums. I got busy and left those older songs behind, occasionally pulling one or two out for a solo show or two, but otherwise concentrating on other projects.
Ten years later, in late 2004, as the band was approaching some much needed time off and I approached the birth of my daughter Ava Ruth, I began to think again about that old album. I began playing through some of the old cassettes from 94 and constructing potential lists of songs. I also started writing a bunch of new songs. When I started compiling the songs, old and new, together, I was surprised to see that the songs not only seemed to fit together, but they also seemed to work as a sort of point / counterpoint.
In January of 2005, I recorded the majority of this album. I was fortunate to have some guests help in its creation. David Barbe and Brad Morgan both partnered this entire project. Most of my other DBT band mates appear, as did John Neff (who was at that time not playing in DBT) and Don Chambers. My friends Will Johnson and Scott Danbom from the band Centro-matic. This album is also the first time I ever really got to record with my Dad, David Hood, a professional musician. It was a blast working with him.
My original plan was to put the album out later that year and perhaps even do a short tour to promote it, but fate and business concerns intervened and I ended up having to shelve the near-finished project for four years. During that time, I was encouraged and supported by David Barbe, who had fronted me the studio time and graciously agreed to keep the tab running until we could eventually bring this project to a close. I cringe to think what would have happened to this album without his help and support. Every year or so I would go in and work a little on it, recording three more songs and occasionally re-doing a part or two, but overall keeping the album true to it’s original vision.
Ava Ruth is now four years old. The band has in many ways moved musically closer to the way this album sounds. John Neff now plays in DBT full time and having a keyboard player is no longer such a foreign idea. The album is coming out almost exactly fifteen years after I wrote the title cut and the original batch of songs for it. I am still fiercely proud and thrilled to see it finally see the light of day.
I want to dedicate this album to my beloved Grandmother Lilla Ruth (Sissy) Patterson, my sweet and beautiful wife Rebecca, and our incredible daughter Ava Ruth.
“Sissy” always believed in what I was doing even when I didn’t believe myself. She let Adam’s House Cat practice in her basement for six years, and always urged me to stay the course and chase my dreams no matter how impossible they seemed. Before she passed away, DBT was experiencing its first taste of success and she was thrilled to live to see me playing the likes of Farm Aid and signed to a record label. Ava Ruth has her middle name and beautiful blue eyes. Rebecca is my soul mate and inspiration to look past the darkness that has so often colored my work. Somewhere, I know Sissy’s smiling.
Patterson Hood (in my office, Athens GA. Feb. 16, 2009)