"When I'm an old man sitting around somewhere, I'll put that record on and I know that I'll smile," rattles Patterson Hood, the Mark Twain-adoring guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for one of the best and most literate rock n' roll acts anywhere, The Drive-by Truckers
. Hood, at home in Athens, Ga. after a landmark performance at The Austin City Limits Festival, is talking about Decoration Day
, the successfully ambitious follow-up to the band's acclaimed Southern Rock Opera
. Perhaps one of the most honest-to-God Southern things you will ever hear or--for that matter--experience, Decoration Day
is an imperfectly perfect masterpiece, a true rock opus built in large part with Dylan's wry humor, Faulkner's wondrous characters and Skynyrd's contagious seed. For the making of Opera
, they ventured into the depths of hell (an unair-conditioned warehouse in the Southern summer). As a band, they surfaced with a two-disc epic. As a writer, Hood emerged with a set of "emotionally autobiographical" characters that would be the basis for Decoration Day
--white trash pariahs, barroom acquaintances, outlaws and the dramas of plain Jane's and mullet-capped Joe's--that he met during what he describes as the worst part of his life. "While doing that record, we all went through a lot of personal bullshit that just ended up inspiring almost all of the songs on this record," Hood says. Special thanks to that bullshit this time around. 9:30 p.m. 967-9053. $12.