Hobart Brothers with Lil' Sis Hobart Recommended Soundboard

When: Mon., April 9, 8 p.m. 2012

Pop craftsman Freedy Johnston and Austin roots rocker Jon Dee Graham (a member of unsung 80s band True Believers) launched this project with an absurd premise in mind: all the songs would be about their experiences working dead-end kitchen jobs. (The "Hobart" in the name comes from the manufacturer of food-service appliances.) When they added Susan Cowsill to the lineup, though, they dispensed with that concept—the band's impressive debut album, At Least We Have Each Other (due in May from Freedom), is full of tunes about hard luck and regret, but only one, the emotionally grueling "The Dishwasher," involves crappy kitchen work. Each member brings a different flavor to the music: Graham is the gruff-voiced roots veteran, Cowsill the sweet pop-music harmonizer, and Johnston the poetic singer-songwriter. They all take turns singing, but they sound like a band, not a slapped-together all-star group full of conflicting egos and aesthetics—and the mix of talent gives the album an appealing range, from supercatchy balladry to hardscrabble folk-rock. "Sweet Señorita," about a truck driver whose job hauling illicit goods constrains his relationship with a woman on his route, and "I Am Sorry," about a guy who's forced to eat humble pie when he storms out after an argument with his girlfriend and ends up stranded with a dead car battery, both make love feel excruciatingly fragile. Other songs, such as "All Things Being Equal," speak to the plight of America's fragile middle class. Its lyrics give voice to a desperate farmer, driven to torch his property by the heartless vagaries of the commodities market: "If it burns, I'm gonna burn it down / Till it's 25 acres of ashes / And a bank note some fool bought." —Peter Margasak

Price: $15

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