Historically speaking, what city is the undisputed heavyweight champion in American rock 'n' roll? Well, there are really only two legitimate contenders in this bout: Detroit and Memphis. Every other locale belongs on the undercard.
I acknowledge a bias because I claim Michigan as my home state and I spent a chunk of my 20s knocking around the Detroit and Michigan rock scene. But if push came to shove, I'd have to recognize Memphis as the home of American rock 'n' roll -- both for the obvious reasons (you know what they are, right?) and the less-obvious reasons (nearly 20 years of Goner-related acts).
One of those acts is Harlan T. Bobo, a country-garage sad-sack singer-songwriter heavily influenced by the songs of the Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright. In short, he's pure Memphis. Bobo (no idea whether that's his real name) is an expert at writing lover's laments and is equally adept at melancholic finger-picked acoustic tunes ("Errand Girl") and amped-up rockers ("Bad Boyfriends").
Bobo's got one of the better voices in indie rock, a baritone that can alternate between the expressiveness of American Music Club's Mark Eitzel and the down-and-out flatness of Lou Reed. To his credit, Bobo keeps it short and simple. The 12-song Sucker clocks in at 29 minutes -- and that includes the 5-minute, 30-second "Drank," bluesy-jammy celebration of demon alcohol.
If you like singer-songwriter stuff that has a little more guts to it, do yourself a favor and check out Harlan T. Bobo.
Best song: "Sweet Life," a Lee Hazlewood-esque gem, and "Drank."
Deja Vu: A more restrained Reigning Sound
I'd rather listen to: Reigning Sound, even though I heard one of their songs on a Land Rover ad this weekend. At least, Greg Cartwright's getting paid.
Grade: A- (Sucker isn't as good as Bobo's 2007 debut, I'm Your Man, but at 29 minutes, there's not enough time to think about how it's not as good)
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.
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