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I'm Your Man

Harlan T. Bobo

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Album Review

Harlan T. Bobo, origins and real name unknown, surfaced to greater attention in Memphis in 2005 with his homegrown debut album, Too Much Love. He would perform in a clown costume or decorated like a Christmas tree while singing his witty and world-weary songs in small clubs and cafes. Though reluctant to share his past, he was possessed by the minutiae of his stormy relationship with his muse, Memphis artist Yvonne Bobo. Bobo's follow-up, I'm Your Man, is the portrait of a man coming to terms with the couple's separation, still sour and wistful, but ready to turn the corner. This whimsical and sardonic salute to the average lonely American comes off as the musical equivalent to the writings of Thomas McGuane, both lyrical and appreciative of the Loner's condition. Charming and realistic about his own shortcomings, Bobo promises to "skip parties and dodge all your friends" yet "treat your kids like my own" on the title song that opens the record. It's subtle and funny because you believe the words from his heartfelt delivery, and it's graced by a nimble, acoustic accompaniment. If the title song is lyrically indicative of what's about to follow musically, I'm Your Man offers a showcase for his compatriots. They manage to cover everything from the Nilsson-style opener to the staggering garage rocker "God's Lamb," which reminds you of Eternally Yours-era Saints. "Pragmatic Woman," Bobo's plea for someone to clean up his mess and tolerate his quirks, not only approximates traditional country but delivers it. "My Life," one of the finest songs on the album, is a model for how to switch gears within a song, from the slow buildup to the funky midsection, crowned by a Richard Quine worthy guitar skronk delivered with a soulful brass backing. Only the brief "Tick Tock" fails to impress amidst the otherwise astonishing album, sounding just average despite its gorgeous cello accompaniment. Harlan T. Bobo has taken his blinders off lyrically and expanded his sound musically. As diverse as the album is, at its throbbing heart lies the cohesive, literate thread of Bobo's life and experiences laid bare and looking for some small measure of happiness. Now that he's delivered it for the rest of us, here's hoping Bobo will find it for himself by the next album.

Biography

Born: Memphis, TN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although he kept most details of his personal life — including his real name — a mystery, Harlan T. Bobo's quirky Americana made him a local favorite in Memphis, TN. The songwriter first tackled heartbreak, loss, and other melancholic subjects on Too Much Love, released in 2005 by the Memphis-based Goner Records. He followed that well-received debut with 2007's I'm Your Man, a...
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I'm Your Man, Harlan T. Bobo
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