I’m struggling with how to properly introduce Texas-based singer/songwriter Adam Hood. It’s almost customary to note that he was discovered by Miranda Lambert in the mid-to-late 2000s and that said discovery led to a songwriting deal and a full-time pursuit of music as a career profession for him. And listen to any of his early releases and you’ll understand the connection – cut from the same country-meets-southern-rock-driven cloth but focused primarily on the songwriting, with 2014’s Welcome to the Big World being the big highlight for me before shifting to a more soulful, groove-driven sound with 2018’s Somewhere in Between.
And it’s no surprise that I also strongly heard frequent co-writer Brent Cobb’s influence on that album, for better and worse. On one hand, I think Hood is a livelier performer that can be as equally relaxed and likable without as being sleepy as Cobb tends to be on his own material, but on the other hand I did miss the bigger focus on writing over groove. So I didn’t know what to expect ahead of this year’s Bad Days Better, this time featuring actual production from Cobb … and it’s strange, because while I still prefer Hood’s earlier work, for what is ostensibly a laidback mood album, I like this way more than I expected. Maybe it’s because Cobb’s southern-fried grooves have some actual muscle to them this time around thanks to Blackberry Smoke’s involvement here as a backing band (the oddest little perfect storm of 2022, I tell ya), and that, again, I do think Hood has a livelier, more charismatic tone to back it all up. His tone reminds me of an oddly weird mix between Jason Eady and Drake White in just how tempered it can sound one second and how much he can turn up the energy with it the next one.
Granted, despite the songwriting-based reputation, it does mean this album can be pretty one-note in both an effective and ineffective way. It’s basically an album centered around looking ahead and leaving darker days behind, which is a trope I’ve heard explored on pretty much every other release this year (and last year) but also has the benefit of having the soul and grit to make up for it. And it really does just come down to rock-solid grooves and hooks anchoring solid compositions, like the plucky mandolin playing off the organ to great effect on “Business With Jesus,” or the surprisingly lovestruck but grimy “Throw Me a Line” that bleeds well into tracks like “Harder Stuff” and the more touring-centered “Can’t Stand Leavin’” with the deeper muscle in the guitars. It’s another reason I like the plucky, ‘70s southern-rock electric groove of “Flesh and Bone” that can get a bit self-deprecating and humorous with the framing of trying one’s best not to be a continuously stumbling misfit.
Of course, there’s also the part of me that wishes this album leaned into its songwriting bone a lot more to better flesh out the drama or anchor it in deeper stakes. The closest we get is “Harder Stuff” featuring Miranda Lambert that’s just a soulful as hell track steeped in regret over Hood’s character’s past alcoholism and how simultaneously easy it is to see the light ahead and how hard it is to actually reach that point or maintain the needed balance to reach it; this album can sometimes be a bit too loose for its own good – like on the overbearingly corny “Don’t Do It” – and I wish we had more moments like this.
That’s not to say the album isn’t observational. Hood’s scenarios do feel as fleshed-out and detailed in their framing as you typically get from performers primarily known as songwriters, which is what makes the almost self-referential nod to his place within the industry on “Speed of the South” tongue-in-cheek in a good way. It’s not necessarily that the deeper stakes or drama aren’t there after all, then; that would just require revisting dark places and reviving old demons better left silenced for now. So I also can’t fault an album for sticking to a mostly consistently upbeat vision and direction, even if it’s not always where I want it to go. After all, when it’s this consistently rollicking in groove and tone, it’s easy to like on its surface elements alone. I might have wanted more, but I like what we got, too.
- Favorite tracks: “Business With Jesus,” “Harder Stuff” (feat. Miranda Lambert), “Can’t Stand Leavin’,” “Flesh and Bone”
- Least favorite track: “Don’t Do It”