Readers are no doubt familiar with Patterson Hood from his work with the Drive-By Truckers. Killers And Stars, a record that Hood describes as therapy for a shitty time in his life, was not initially intended for official release (although he did press up a few copies to sell at solo shows, which he labeled "work in progress"). Recorded in his dining room over a couple of nights in March 2001, Killers is stark and intimate, yet its raw, threadbare emotional core is somehow strangely soothing. Imagine the up-front intensity of Robyn Hitchcock's Eye with the twang of a young Steve Earle. I have to confess, I never completely fell in love with the Drive-By Truckers, but my immediate fascination with this "throwaway" solo project has me questioning that initial reaction. Killers And Stars is full of quiet ruminations on the lethal underside of American public culture. Hood's ventures into the darker side of celebrity ("Belinda Carlisle's Diet" of "milkshakes and cocaine," the descent of "Frances Farmer" into madness) or alcoholism (Tom T. Hall's "Pay No Attention To Alice") veer much more heavily to the cautionary versus the celebratory end of the spectrum. But the opening track, "Uncle Disney" (which Patterson has pulled out recently at Drive-By Truckers shows), is worth the price of the album on its own. "When they thaw out Uncle Disney/All us 'toons gonna be just fine/America's just a giant theme park/Put on them mouse ears and get in line," Hood declares in a caustic a comment on Disney's domination of the cultural landscape. Killers And Stars may float along under the critical radar, but I anticipate pulling this record out again several years after I've long forgotten other releases from 2004.