Fricke's Picks: A Drive-By Trucker's Solo Trip

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Murdering Oscar (and other love songs) (Ruth St.), the new solo album by singer-guitarist Patterson Hood of roaring Georgians Drive-By Truckers, has a knotty back story. Hood was in rough straits in 1994 — recently divorced, without a band — when he began documenting the emotional wreckage in many of these songs: the sexual vengeance in "Screwtopia," the war with guilt in the title track. The hell wasn't all his — "Heavy and Hanging" was Hood's immediate response to Kurt Cobain's death — and the darkness lifts in later songs like "I Understand Now." But Hood, who formed the Truckers with guitarist Mike Cooley in 1996, would not start recording any of this material until 2005. That was our lucky break. What might have been, in '94, an album of oppressive self-pity crackles and gallops in the '05 sessions with weathered muscle and howling-wolf guitars, like a side road out of the Truckers' 2004 master blast, The Dirty South. Hood's band is also hauling big freight this season: Live in Austin TX (New West), a CD-DVD set of the Truckers' hot 2008 set on Austin City Limits; and a rarities bundle, The Fine Print (New West). The latter opens with a brawling Bob Dylan pastiche, "George Jones Talkin' Cell Phone Blues," then closes with the true grit: a cover-on-fire of "Like a Rolling Stone."

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