Memphis man of mystery and master of the mood Harlan T. Bobo strikes again with another dose of mournful countrified laments, righteous rockers and woozy, wistful wordplay. Sucker, his third album for the venerable Goner Records builds on the path laid by his previous two releases of tried and true roots confectionary dosed with soul worthy of the city where it was built. However, while his first two albums dealt with a lover lost and the post-relationship rebuild, Sucker gets a few forward-motion peeks out the window of hope and fulfillment aside the world-worn melancholy he's made his stylistic calling card. Bobo's world is one where eccentricity shines, yet coheres around his songs of self-deprecating humor, heart-on-sleeve of kevlar confessionals and an innate sense of what makes a pop song timeless. All stripes mingle on this offering, but while trafficking in mindful ruminations he displays a strong sense of restraint with such a powerful and varied album ending in under a half hour.
Call it lazy journalism, but I'll be the first to say it, Harlan T. Bobo is America's answer to Nick Cave, yet with a utter lack of pretense. His words are powerfully poetic, yet never overcooked, and serve as a brushstroke atop minimal backing of woozy organ and acoustic guitars just as ably as the wordy full-tilt mania exhibited in the rollicking "Crazy with Loneliness," or the barrel-house boozer with brains in "Perfect Day." Another contemporary who he shares a similar musical breadth with is the Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright (which isn't hard to grasp, as the man himself and other members have lent hand to all of Bobo's albums), but for those not partial to Cartwright's fractured soul-inflected vocals, Harlan is your ticket to paradise with a sound more akin to a slightly brighter Leonard Cohen. Every tune the boy croons is a keeper and the longer he spits the stronger he gets, so let's hope for a long ride with this miracle of modern music, as anyone who's ever had a yearn for sumthin' a little more rootsy should board this train; the rawness in his music remains to grind any garage devotees heart of stone to sand. Don't be a sucker, you should pick up this album at any cost. [Goner]
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