LIFE on the road eventually takes its toll on even the hardiest soul and strongest constitution. What might seem like a carefree existence might be all very well for people in their early twenties. But once the years and tours begin to stack up, the fun can soon wear off.
When they first played in Whelan's several years ago, the Drive-By Truckers were clearly having a ball.
Opening the set with three numbers most Irish acts would be more than delighted to close a gig with, the band were in high-spirited mode, swilling pints throughout the show and polishing off a bottle of whiskey between them before they'd reached the halfway mark.
Cut to their show in the Button Factory last year and the band were visibly burnt out. Barely making eye-contact with each other, they clearly couldn't wait to get home but, such us the way that the industry has changed, middle-ranking acts have to tour incessantly in order to keep the whole enterprise ticking over.
That sense of being a hamster on a wheel comes across clearly on former Drive-Bys singer Patterson Hood's most recent solo album Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. A prime slice of Americana, which features his father David (a former session player at the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios) on bass, Patterson Hood's album isn't, mercifully, one long whinge bemoaning the life of a working musician, but certain songs are infused with the sadness and problems that the profession brings.
The song Leaving Time is perhaps the best example of a pre-road song, the narrator enjoying a brief break with an increasingly distant and questioning partner as he contemplates, "Only six more tours to the end of the year".
Hood's way with storytelling is easily on a par with that of Richmond Fontaine's Willy Vlautin -- with the album sounding like the work of a man who was looking forward to and whose songwriting benefitted from a decent break from the road.
> George Byrne
Patterson Hood plays the Workman's Club tomorrow