Two stars, four nights of alt-country with Patterson Hood, Robert Earl Keen

Music • Patterson Hood and Robert Earl Keen perform two shows each at The State Room.
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All good things come in twos. Prime examples are Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Pop-Tarts and Twix.

This week, Utah audiences can hear two alt-country musicians who are playing two-night gigs at The State Room.

The Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood will headline Friday and Saturday; witty troubadour Robert Earl Keen will share his gifts Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hood and Keen talked to The Tribune by telephone about their offerings, which obviously will take more than just one show to deliver.

Patterson Hood • The co-leader of alt-country band Drive-By Truckers comes from The Shoals region of Northern Alabama; his dad is bassist David Hood of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Dave, who is featured in the recent Sundance Film Festival film "Muscle Shoals," came to Park City in January to jam with other musicians connected to the region and the movie.

Patterson Hood is on a short jaunt through the West and said he loves "coming out there" to Salt Lake City so he can stop in the Heavy Metal Shop and see friend Kevin Kirk, the owner. The shop even has a special-edition T-shirt for sale designed by the Drive-By Truckers' resident artist, Wes Freed.

Hood's third solo album, "Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance," was released in September and comes from his failed attempts to write a novel called "Slam Dancing in the Pews," he said.

"I just stopped," he said of the novel."The main character was kind of based on me. It wasn't a totally happy book. … I'm too busy to do something I don't enjoy. I saved it and maybe I'll come back to it."

Hood took lines from the book to create his intimate, intensely personal album and even takes the opportunity to recite a part of the book in the track "(untold pretties)," which details a lost love, his grandfather's funeral, a new love and the line, "You can only carry hell around so long before it gets to be a drag."

"I'm pretty happy about everything on the album," Hood said. "Some records are better than others. I'm generally happy about the way the band plays, and the songs hold up."

Guitarist John Neff left Drive-By Truckers just after Christmas, but Hood said the band is "in a great place" and will start recording a new album soon. "It will be a more stripped-down, more punk-rock record," he said. "I think we needed time to recharge."

Robert Earl Keen • The 57-year-old Texan singer-songwriter began his music career while strumming a guitar alongside longtime friend Lyle Lovett. They played on the porch of Keen's rented house at 302 Church St. in College Station while attending Texas A&M University.

The Americana artist has never had a hit on mainstream Top 40 radio. But his bittersweet signature song "The Road Goes On Forever" is a classic for fans of alt-country, and his off-kilter holiday song "Merry Christmas From the Family" has become a favorite for everyone wanting to hear something different during December. The song is about Keen's redneck, chain-smoking relatives who get drunk on margaritas once the spiked eggnog is gone.

With plans to record a new album later this year, Keen is touring in support of 2011's "Ready for Confetti," which includes a dig at Toby Keith — "In your clown suit and your goldilocks / All duded up in your cowboy crocs / Singing the same old song." The album also was notable as Keen stretched his arranging skills, offering skiffle blues to reggae, and gospel to the title track's island vibe, complete with steel drums.

"I thought there would be more outrage," Keen said about the reaction to his stab at a different style. "I guess I got away with it. The most disparaging thing anyone said is that I was sounding like Jimmy Buffett."

Keen enjoys the "creative part of the studio," but he knows he will always be back on the road — a routine he has maintained since graduating from Texas A&M in 1980. It's helped him gain fans who don't mind his admittedly imperfect voice. This year, "I think I will tour, because that's what I've done for so long," he said.

Twitter: @davidburger —

Patterson Hood

When • Friday, March 29, and Saturday, March 30, at 9 p.m.

Where • The State Room, 638 S. State St., Salt Lake City

Tickets • $25 at

Info • Hood will be at The Heavy Metal Shop (63 Exchange Place, Salt Lake City) on Saturday, March 30, between 5 and 6 p.m.

Robert Earl Keen

When • Tuesday, April 2, and Wednesday, April 3, at 8 p.m.

Where • The State Room, 638 S. State St., Salt Lake City

Tickets • $40 at