Their two subsequent albums, Decoration Day and The Dirty South, have deepened their following, as evidenced by a pair of sold-out shows at the Cat's Cradle in November. But it wasn't always like that here.
"For a long time we'd play the Local 506, when Dave [Robertson] was running it. He was super-supportive of the band from day one," Patterson says. "He would get us these really nice nights, like Friday or Saturday night. We'd be on tour and already doing pretty well up in New York, Baltimore and Richmond. Then on the way home we'd hit the 506 on a Friday night and play for eight people. It was very frustrating and very disheartening."
Like Robertson, Patty Hurst Shifter's Chris Smith saw the potential in DBT, and put together his band to try to help with the act's weak draws here in the Triangle.
"They were some of the early, early people who believed in what we were trying to do," Hood recalls. "We'd play Humble Pie sometimes--[Smith] was working there at the time--and there would be 10 people there. He thought it was a shame, so he put together a band, and a whole bunch of people came to see them play with us, and it truly did help."
This time into town, Hood returns without former Durham resident Cooley and his fellow DBT bandmates, instead bringing along The Screwtopians, who back Hood on his solo material.
"It's a little more of a loose federation than the Truckers. It kind of varies in members but it's the same basic overall core," Hood says. "It's a little more county, certainly more than the Truckers. Probably a little closer to what the early records sound like in some ways."
Hood will be playing songs from Killers and Stars, the solo album he released last year. Hood wrote the album as he dealt with a divorce, just after the recording of Southern Rock Opera. It's a raw, harrowing set of songs delivered in a bare-bones style (it was recorded in his dining room, after all) that puts the songs' bare-wire emotionality in bas-relief.
"It's a frightening album. It kind of frightens me, actually. I didn't know if I should put it out. For a long time, I kind of sat on it because I didn't think it was anything anybody else would want to hear," Hood says. "The one that I've recorded as a follow-up is very, very different from that. It's recorded with a full-band kind of approach in the studio, and it actually sounds good. I think it's well produced and well made."
Though it was recorded in January of last year, the album will have to wait to see the light of day, pushed back by the impending April release of the new Drive-By Truckers album A Blessing and a Curse.
"It's eventually going to come out, but I'm going to wait until after we finish touring behind that, and then I'm going to put it out," Hood avers. As for the much-anticipated DBT release, Hood says,"It's a little poppier, and a little more concise. It's a little more up-tempo, maybe a little more of a Big Star and Tom Petty feeling than some of the influences of the last couple."
With the Drive-By Truckers' stature established, Hood's return is accompanied by the sense that he's got his traffic lights perfectly timed. x
Patterson Hood & The Screwtopians play The Pour House on Friday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets run $10-12.