There are some telltale signs for spotting a musician who's a true liner-notes-memorizing music fan.
Such a musician might create a rock opera inspired by a doomed Southern rock band and affectionately name-drop Molly Hatchet and Blue Öyster Cult in a song from said rock opera. Or perform a Bruce Springsteen record in its entirety, or show up, more than willingly, in a music publication with a year-end top ten list in hand.
And don't underestimate the role of musical bloodlines. So, yeah, Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers is the sort you want to talk music with.
"The Coach's Wife"
The Dashboard Saviors (from the late Athens, Ga., band's 1992 debut Kitty)
PATTERSON HOOD: Is that the Dashboard Saviors?
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: It is, yeah.
Holy shit, man. I'm really close friends with Todd [McBride, Dashboard Saviors leader]. For that matter, I'm friends with all of them. I don't have their first two records, although I've heard 'em. It's been a while though. I have their third album and the live record. I saw them more times than I could count back when they were together, and I still keep up with Todd. ... You know, they were a little bit before all of that came into, well, style, for lack of a better word. A little on the front end of the curve. And by the time there was really a market for what they were doing, they were kind of gone. It's a shame. I know that Todd is actually a little bit bitter about it. Wait, I'm not supposed to use that word anymore. Anxious about it a little.
"Red Rumor Blues"
Ronny Elliott (from 2008's Jalopypaint)
HOOD: I really enjoyed this and the McCarthy history lesson. I just read a couple of things that kind of dealt with all of that, so it was pretty timely to hear.
INDEPENDENT: I thought it was in line with the sense of time and place in a lot of your songs. It's from a guy named Ronny Elliott out of Tampa, and a lot of his songs are rooted in history. Kind of like the book Ragtime, with characters from fact and fiction, although this one is pure fact.
If Johnny Cash were still alive, I'd love to hear him cover it. I think it'd be supercool. One of those talking-Johnny Cash-history-lesson songs.
"Am I Wasting My Time"
Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves (from the brand new but 40-year-old-sounding Roll With You)
HOOD: Who is that?
INDEPENDENT: It's a young guy out of Boston named Eli "Paperboy" Reed.
Hmmm, wow. Is he black?
No, he's white. He spent his late teens singing in clubs in Mississippi and then returned to the Northeast.
It's like anybody anymore that's playing this kind of music is not only not black, but also not in the South. It's strange. He does a good job with it; it's a good song, and it sounds old.
Yeah, he really does stick to that late-'60s script.
I'm reading Bobby Womack's autobiography right now. And, wheeew, God. [Laughs.] It's something else. It sounds like somebody with a recorder just letting him talk. It's very conversational, very impassioned. Defiant and angry and sometimes maybe a little bitter—there's that word again. It's quite a read, but not always a fun read. I'm a huge, huge fan. I used to say that my dream was to produce a record by him. I told my dad how much I'd like to do that. Dad just shook his head and said, "He'll break your heart."
"I'm Gonna Make Her Love Me"
Jim Ford (from a Jim Ford collection titled The Sounds of Our Time as well as the Country Got Soul, Vol. 1 compilation)
HOOD: This was the other song I recognized immediately. That's on Country Got Soul, right? Great, great compilation. It's got the crazy Travis Wammack version of "You Better Move On" where he kind of does a Marvin Gaye thing. I love that version, and it's one of my favorite songs ever written anyway, by Arthur Alexander. He was the first Muscle Shoals artist.
INDEPENDENT: I'm reading the book Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues: The Arthur Alexander Story.
I've skimmed that. My dad's got it at his house, but he wouldn't let me borrow it. [Laughs.] He let me read as much as I could while I was there. I got the Arthur Alexander reissue that came out last year, the reissue of that record he did right before he died. Really cool record, and it's got those great bonus tracks and some of the craziest packaging I've seen, with those inserts including the program from his funeral. Unfortunately, I've been to several funerals there. That's my hometown.
Jason Anderson (from Tonight, on which the former lo-fi guy unleashes his inner E Street Band)
HOOD: This almost sounds like one of the early Springsteen songs. Who is this?
INDEPENDENT: It's a guy named Jason Anderson. And even though I think it's one of the more blatant Springsteen rip-offs, I think he does a good job with it.
It cracks me up after all these years the wave of bands that very openly and proudly are inspired by and influenced by Springsteen, with The Hold Steady probably being the front-runners on all that. Theirs is such a great revisionist take on that whole thing. There was a time when there was such a backlash after Born in the USA; it seemed like it lasted decades. [Laughs.] Even then, there were a few bands—hell, us—that were pretty obviously influenced by him. Marah had that really obvious influence at times. It's good to see how the whole circle has finally come back around for him. All these superhip bands or whatever are all talking openly about being huge Springsteen fans.
Chatham County Line (from IV)
HOOD: This is almost like a fusion of the kind of R&B we were talking about with Appalachian instrumentation. It's kinda cool.
INDEPENDENT: It's a local band, Chatham County Line. They're on Yep Roc, like most everybody else these days.
There are worse places to be. [Big laugh.]
The Drive-By Truckers play Cat's Cradle Tuesday, May 13, and Wednesday, May 14. The Dexateens open both shows. Music starts at 10 p.m., and tickets are $20-$22.