Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
As this album’s evocative title implies, Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood is a natural storyteller. More than his plainspoken red clay voice or the tough, soulful Southern rock his band specializes in, it’s his lyrics, predominantly about the Southern experience, that create mini-movies of the mind. That comes to full fruition on “Untold Pretties,” where Hood speaks the story—a memoir about a high school sweetheart, his grandfather’s funeral and other introspective matters—over a sparse, piano based, pedal steel enhanced mid-tempo backing. Other Truckers and even Hood’s famous bass playing dad David contribute to this album that started out as a book about Hood’s life in his late 20s but morphed into these autobiographical nuggets. Longtime friend Kelly Hogan adds harmonies on the intimate “After the Damage,” a riveting ballad that sounds like an outtake from Neil Young’s Harvest era. Even if Hood’s manuscript isn’t finished, these songs evoke images and conjure emotions that are as descriptive and riveting as any printed word.