Several of Rossiter's songs adopt the device of sketching a simple scene and then filling in its backstory in a long series of verses. His music has the quality of an ice sculpture in which a hidden idea has been discovered by hacking away its covering but it's also full of striking individual images. Probably my favorite Hoodang song is the very compact "Roadhouse Shuffle." That song tells of a dying war veteran and alcoholic barroom musician who's "been doin' the roadhouse shuffle twenty years or more. . . . Each year brought death closer in, and soon it would be his time." In four breathtaking stanzas, Rossiter takes the man from the battlefield and the loss of his wife to redemption in the form of a foundling he hears crying outside a bar "Jordan's River in a baby's tears, to wash away his sin."
Hoodang's eponymously titled debut album came out a couple of years ago, and those of us who follow this kind of songwriting have been awaiting more material. Some of it will be ready for unveiling on Tuesday, January 9, at the Ark, where Hoodang's concert will be recorded for a new live CD. I heard Rossiter try out some new songs at Beaner's coffeehouse last fall, and I can report that he's exploring new songwriting forms, including the straight historical song (he has a great one about Michigan's James Jesse Strang, self-proclaimed king of Beaver Island in the nineteenth century), gothic horror, and even a country barroom duet that's pretty romantic.