Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Patterson Hood: Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) [Ruth St., 2009]
Shortly after the 2004 living-room collection Killers and Stars, the Drive-By Trucker and great American songwriter figured out a better way to make a solo album: not just with a band, duh, but with never-recorded mementos of his intermittently wasted late 20s juxtaposed against tokens of fatherhood at 40 and other life satisfactions. Took a while to get off the back burner, but the simmering helped it blend. Hood is too inclined toward dark-side thoughts and the world too inclined toward dark-side realities for the newer songs to come off complacent. But like the best Nashville vets, he knows enough to root both "Granddaddy," an optimistic take on having a kid, and "Pride of the Yankees," a worried one, in telling details, personal and historical respectively. The alt-rock vet he is takes time to level a few harsh words at old fling Courtney Love. But here's one thing that makes him a great American songwriter--they're tempered by kind ones. A-