Harlan T. Bobo: Sucker
With a name like Harlan T. Bobo, you’d better be good at whatever you do. The name just stands out, and is fun to say. So, you expect to be delighted by what’s to come. For Bobo, Sucker, his third album with Goner Records, is surely his best work yet. The charming thing about the album is right on the inside cover where it clearly states, “Songs mostly written while courting an adventurous woman.”
I know nothing about this woman Harlan courted across three continents. But I do know that if the courtship was as fun as the music, he had one hell of a time. Harlan comes from Memphis and its quite obvious in his music which has that Southern feel to it. Primarily on the track “Energy” where he does one hell of a Jerry Lee Lewis type performance. The track is aptly named as there’s nothing but energy there. Though Harlan plays the guitar and not the keys, I could only imagine him hopping around doing tricks with his instrument while wailing away.
His voice is commanding, and brings to mind Johnny Cash. Its deep, but not too raspy. Its clear, but carries character with it. Often times it doesn’t seem like he’s singing so much as telling you a story while changing the pitch of his voice. But make no mistake, Harlan T. Bobo sings. “Crazy with Loneliness” just exhumes the whole Cash sound. The rock they play on the track is reminiscent of those days when acts like Cash would tour and you couldn’t help but get out of your seat and dance.
But Bobo can mix it up. “Bad Boyfriends” is a track that could easily have come from The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. Its got that Elton John piano-rock feel to it. And the lyrics are a bit cheesy what with a line like “Bad boys make bad boyfriends”. Still, its fun to listen to.
Other tracks that stand out are “Drank” and “Mlle. Chatte”. The former is a track about drinking with a newly found love about all sorts of things that have come and those that are still to come. It tells a nice little story about how a man asks a woman to show him the ocean. She tells him, “you better know how to swim.” Needless to say, they make their way out and a small adventure ensues retold by an almost whispering Bobo. Perhaps the entire track isn’t true, but I reckon that a good deal of it is autobiographical. And if not, its definitely allegorical. Think about it, you ask a woman to marry you and it would make sense for her to answer “you better know how to swim”.
As for “Mlle. Chatte”, this a fun little track sung in two languages. It tells the tale of a Mrs. “Cat”, presumably called so for the cat that she owns. Bobo sings the song in French and has it echoed in English. It is a delightful little song about a character that may be real or made up. Still, I’d much prefer the album to end off with “Drank”.
Nothing puts the perspective of the album into a better view than one other line written on the inside cover, “The courtship was a success.” And that success should have really been culminated with the powerful track “Drank” which would have tied up the album nicely. Still, the album has enough positive merits to survive a slight organizational setback. The only other criticism of the album is that some of the tracks are rather short, coming in at about two minutes. The longer tracks are the best of the album. Hopefully Bobo’s marriage works out and lasts a long time. One thing is clear, he should keep making music especially now that his work is “a little more charged than they were a couple of years ago, when I had nothing to do but play music.” Also, buying Sucker surely won’t make you one. What can go wrong with an album written while “courting an adventurous woman” particularly when it ended well? Do Harlan a favor and give him a listen. He’s earned it.
MP3: Harlan T. Bobo “Hamster in a Cage”
Harlan T. Bobo: Sucker