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Music Review: King Hobo – King Hobo

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Back during the Sounds of the Underground Festival of 2005, Opeth’s Per Wiberg and Clutch’s Jean-Paul Gaster had an inspirational flash of genius. A meeting of musical minds followed and a general invite went out to like-minded muso’s.

Curiosity got the better of them, before long a cast of players had been set up, and the project that is King Hobo took shape. An early but all important element was ‘get funky or get out’ and soon as someone started ‘wailing’ or ‘shredding’ it would all go quiet and it would all go back to square one.

What this vagabond set of highly regarded musicians have come up with is the self-titled King Hobo album – and – it has to be said – it is a remarkable achievement. Firstly most of them had never played together before. A small house was rented in Sweden but they only a week to put it all together and to write enough tracks for an album. However we are not talking about your normal people here and King Hobo is actually a collective talent base par excellence from as far afield as Eric Oblander from the much underrated US band Five Horse Johnson and the locally grown Tomas Agnas, Ulf Rockis Ivarsson, and Thomas Juneor Andersson. To make matters even more tricky, it was recorded live as a whole and, if anything, it is that ingredient that has made this albums such a gem.

Starting with some respected covers, two of which made the album, they quickly worked through some half formed ideas and began to hastily map out their desired direction. When you look at the wide range of bands from which King Hobo was put together, such as Opeth, Clutch etc you can begin to see what a challenge this was. What it did provide was the chance for everyone to really explore blues, funk, and rock to their hearts content and it is that delight in what they are playing that makes this album so highly infectious.

Right from the off with a stunning version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Running” you realise that this is an album to simply enjoy for what it is, a joyous exploration of music played without studio wizardry standing alone as a testament to the musicianship involved. It is like you have stumbled across the sessions yourself and gone in to have a look and a listen.

“Leaving Letter Blues” has that sleazy southern blues feel about it with Eric Oblander on harp and the slower tempo “Rolling In From The Sea” with its exquisite bass line both tell us exactly where it is all heading. The instrumental “Swede” is King Hobo jamming together and getting funky over guitars and keys and like many other moments on the album opens out into an inspired jam session. “Four Winds” is beautifully late night, seductively sleazy and smoky. Despite the fact of how the band came together, there is a clear understanding of each members musical space along with a collective appreciation of what the project is all about and a genuine love for the music this has produced. What’s more it cannot fail to pass that sense of joy on to the listener.

In days of studio science, it is as refreshing as a cool beer on a white hot beach to hear music played like this. When King Hobo jam there are no egos on display, no competition for attention, just a regard for the musical experience as a whole. “From Me To you” explores the desire for funk whilst the gorgeous standard blues walk through that is “Coffee Break” is simply superb. You can almost hear the glasses on the tables and see the dejected drunk sitting at the end of the bar knocking back double shots.

It comes to an end with a second cover “Mr Clean” by Weldon Irvine. It is an accomplished way to end the session, the whole atmosphere of which is best explained by the notes that came with it. ‘The album documents one week in Sweden when a small gathering of travelling musicians threw their ingredients into the collective cauldron, enjoyed the meal, and departed as quickly as they had come’. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a rushed or half thought through project – it isn’t. 
It’s a triumph of musicianship drawing on all the talent at the groups disposal.

For more information and streaming MP3s, visit the King Hobo Official Myspace profile.

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About Jeff Perkins