Town Burned Down, the unreleased album by Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s pre-Truckers band Adam’s House Cat, opens with something like a suicide note. On “Lookout Mountain,” Hood wonders what would happen in the wake of his own self-inflicted death: “Who would end up with my records? Who would end up with my tapes?” It almost sounds like a last will and testament set to crunchy guitar chords and a powerful backbeat courtesy of drummer Chuck Tremblay. But Hood is less concerned with the records he owns and more concerned with the records he wants to make. “If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain, who will ever hear my songs?”
As introductions go, it’s both harrowing and hopeful: a mission statement that motivated Adam’s House Cat and continues to drive the Truckers (who revived the song on 2004’s The Dirty South). For decades no one actually heard these songs, aside from fans curious enough to track down the muddy bootleg, but this newly remastered reissue shows just how quickly they found their voice. Cooley is an inventive sideman and soloist, often playing foil to Hood, whose keen eye for the details of southern life animate “Buttholeville” and “Cemeteries.” Turning hardship into hard rock, he documents his crumbling marriage with grim humor on “Love Really Sucks” and equally grim fatalism on “Runaway Train.”
Town Burned Down chronicles a band in freefall, with songs about suicide, romantic upheaval, and creative rot set to gritty rock and roll not too dissimilar from the jagged riffs and gritty melodies of Hüsker Dü or early Soul Asylum. Forming in the Shoals region of North Alabama, they bristled against the local scene, where audiences flocked to cover bands and ignored bands that performed original material. “I got this band but there’s no place to play,” Hood sings on “6 O’Clock Train.” “This lack of local interest ‘bout to run my band away.”
Nevertheless, Musician magazine named them one of the top unsigned bands in 1988, so they bankrolled sessions at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and recorded a handful of their best songs to send out to record labels. And then… nothing. No bites, no contract. Hood and Cooley moved to Memphis, thinking the change of scenery might jumpstart their music career, but Adam’s House Cat unceremoniously split up following a show in Nashville in late 1991. Town Burned Down got lost in the archives.
Remastering those original recordings not only unmoors these songs from that particular era in rock history but also sharpens the band’s attack and showcases each player’s contribution to Adam’s House Cat’s unruly sound. Some bonus material might have been revealing (in particular, “Smiling at Girls,” which won the Musician contest), but it’s still a vital installment in the Truckers’ remarkable catalog.
The December 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Bob Dylan on the cover. The issue also comes with a unique 12-track Bob Dylan CD, The Best Of The Bootleg Series, featuring an exclusive track from Dylan’s latest boxset. Elsewhere in the issue you’ll find exclusive features on the Small Faces, Jeff Tweedy, the Psychedelic Furs, Moses Sumney, Sister Sledge, Jeff Goldblum, Marianne Fathfull, Ty Segall, Roger Daltrey, Klaus Voormann and many more.