It's a miracle that Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) is finally seeing the light of day. Originally conceptualized by Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood in 1994 and predominantly recorded a decade later, the album is technically a precursor to DBT classics like Southern Rock Opera. But there's nothing second-rate about Hood's second collection of solo material. From twangy pop numbers like "Pollyanna" to Hood's stripped-down cover of Todd Rundgren's "The Range War" and the banjo-driven "Foolish Young Bastard," the tracks here paint a more comprehensive picture of Hood's personality than you get from a typical Drive-By Truckers disc, where he has to share the spotlight with the band's other songwriters. Oh, and those of you who get off on the morbid nature of songs like "The Assassin" (from his lo-fi solo debut Killers And Stars) should skip ahead to "Heavy and Hanging," a fuzzed-out homage to Kurt Cobain written from his electrician's point of view. — Jonah Bayer
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