Most Blogcritics readers are familiar with Jon Sobel as a witty and thoughtful music critic, but probably few know that Sobel is also a musician and songwriter. His band, Whisperado, has an EP that should be in every literate music fan's collection.
My first thought after popping Some Other Place into my CD player was how much Jon sounds like an articulate Bob Dylan (or Mark Knopfler, which makes more sense with the cover of "The Bug"). It was a bit of a surprise, actually. I don't know what I was expecting, but my initial reaction was something akin to the reaction I had upon seeing Garrison Keillor in person after a lifetime of listening to him on the radio.
Once I got past that, I was able to really listen to the music. The band is your basic roots rock trio. Sobel plays the bass and sings most of the lead vocals, and he's also the main songwriter. Patrick Nielsen Hayden plays lead electric guitar and contributes vocals as well as one song of his own. Rounding it all out with the percussion is David Mills. In addition, Halley DeVestern makes an appearance in a couple of places on the recording.
Because Some Other Place is an EP, I'm going to give my thoughts on each track:
- "Some Other Place" – For some odd reason, the beginning of this song reminds me of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song. On the first listen, I had this in mind when the lyrics make reference to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which caused me to pull out the liner notes and take a closer look. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the song is about starting over in a new location and struggling to make connections with the people there. The slightly repetitive chorus and jangly guitar are what stand out the most to me and give it a kind of 60's roots-rock feel.
- "Never Been To Nashville" – This one is old-school country rock, which works well with the lyrics: "Ain't never been to Nashville / Ain't never been to Memphis / Never spent the night in Austin, honey / 'Cause I got all that I need right here" Almost every indie singer/songwriter I've heard has at least one song that is about their love of their home or partner and one song about the music industry. This song is a little of both.
- "Midnight Moon" – I have no idea what this song is about. It's definitely an "I love you" song, but the metaphors and images used are confusing to me. I like the music, though, so maybe the lyrics aren't as important if it gives me an opportunity to dance around the living room with my cats.
- "Invisible Hand" – This one credits Neilsen Hayden as the primary songwriter, and I think he's the one on lead vocals, too. This song makes me wish I had a better music vocabulary so I could explain what it sounds like. It's both ethereal and strident at the same time. Oh, just go listen to the stream on CDBaby and you'll know what I mean. Aside from the musical style, the socio-economic theme of the lyrics are what makes this song stand out from the rest of the EP.
- "Black and Blue" – I love this song. Love it. It is by far my favorite song on the EP. It's definitely a love song, but not quite what you'd expect. "My friends are so jealous when they see us walking past / 'Cause I got me a woman who can kick my ass" The music is classic country swing, which adds to the fun of the song.
- "The Bug" – The last track on the EP is this cover of Mark Knopfler's song. DeVestern's backing vocals shine through on this one. As far as I can tell, Whisperado stays true to the original, except for the duet element between Sobel and DeVestern.
If this is just a taste of Whisperado, then I look forward to hearing what is to come from them in the future.