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The Hobart Brothers & Lil’ Sis Hobart

Acclaimed trio kickstart early contender among top discs

April 26, 2012
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

These singer/songwriters are a frugal bunch. Hey, whatever it takes for gas money to make it to that next gig.

Back in the day, guys like Jon Dee Graham and Freedy Johnston toured the odd-job circuit - waiting tables here - washing dishes there. All for the greater good, mind you.

Graham, a native Texan is recognized as an Austin icon - both as a writer and member of one of the most innovative combos of the 1980s - The True Believers - a band that (successfully) dared mix and match country and punk.

Regular readers of the Lane are likely familiar with Johnston, a marvelous writer with an impressive catalog of recordings on his resume.

Johnston's 2010 solo project "Rain On The City" was a top 10 selection for the LL's records of the year. Back in the mid-90s, Johnston scored a minor commercial radio hit with "Bad Reputation."

A Kansas native, Johnston eventually migrated to the Big Apple where he resided, wrote incredibly catchy pop/folk tunes, and played occasionally on the club circuit.

I once had a crush on Susan Cowsill - and probably still do. Most likely a result of seeing her perform on campus my freshman year of college as part of 'The Cowsills," the late 60s-early 70s family contingent which recorded two monster hits - "The Rain, The Park & Other Things" and later, "Hair."

Longer story short - Cowsill and Johnston joined forces with Graham in Austin in 2010. The game plan? Pool their creative talents, culminating down the road with enough material to make a record.

"At first, it kinda started out as a little joke, but then, things kinda got serious and we pursued it," Johnston advised the Lane last week over the phone.

Considering they invested numerous hours in the kitchen supplementing their incomes, the trio christened themselves: The Hobart Brothers & Lil' Sis Hobart.

This in reference to Hobart brand dishwashers Graham and Johnston often filled with frequency.

"At Least We Have Each Other" is the title of the trio's project. And we're happy to report one of the finest we've come across in 2012.

"The record's sort of taken on a life of its own," continued Johnston from his current digs in Madison, Wisc. "For me, (this record) was a totally different experience. I haven't done much co-writing over the years but this project is something the three of us very much enjoyed doing."

The three embarked on a modest spring acoustic tour of limited venues. Positive feedback, however, may well result in a sophomore outing.

"I wouldn't have thought that possible early-on. But now, I think the three of us are on the same page and we've discussed going back into the studio," Johnston disclosed.

Cowsill's infectious "Ballad of Sis: Didn't I Love You" opens the disc with a Cowsill family feel. Graham follows with a chugging rocker, "Why I Don't Hunt."

Johnston chimes in with a trucker's dilemma in "Sweet Senorita," and later delivers one of the record's standout tracks, the brooding, "I Am Sorry," yet another classic Johnston-penned lament.

"Can you come get me at the Citgo by the airport?" Johnston asks his girlfriend over the phone. "My heart may be broken and my battery is dead."

On "The Dishwasher," Graham rants of "washing dishes in a joint where I cannot afford to eat." Cowsill returns with a pop gem "I Never Knew There Would Be You."

All three weigh in on the humorous "First Day On The Job." "I realize I only met these guys this morning/And I care for them even less than they care for me."

Graham's lead guitar work is solid throughout. The trio also brought in bassist Andrew DuPlantis and drummer Russ Broussard, husband and bandmate of Ms. Cowsill.

The Hobarts were well received last month during several club gigs at Austin's famed South by Southwest Music Festival.

"I think there's every possibility we'll go on to record again, then try and schedule a more extensive tour," Johnston noted. "We haven't even looked into signing a road manager yet, but that could be in the planning stages."

ROADKILL

Graham was named Austin's Musician of the Year in 2006 and has been inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame three times - as a solo artist in 2000, as a member of the Skunks band in 2008, and as a member of the True Believers in 2009.

In 2008, Graham was critically injured in an auto accident. "What bones didn't I break?" he told Rolling Stone Magazine. "Two vertebrae in my spine, every rib on my left side. I sheared off my kneecap and my lungs collapsed. I was on every kind of pain medication imaginable. Which, unfortunately, is not as much fun as it sounds."

Rolling Stone named Johnston its Songwriter of the Year in 1994 following the release of one of his finest releases, "This Perfect World."

Cowsill, born in 1959 in Canton, was part of a highly-touted 90s band, the Continental Drifters. In 2005, she released her first solo record, "Just Believe It" and later followed with 2010's "Lighthouse."

In between, Susan lost one of her brothers, Barry, a drowning victim of Hurricane Katrina when the couple resided in New Orleans.

Another of Susan's five brothers, Bill, died in February of 2006, ironically on the day of brother Barry's memorial service in Newport, R.I.

Gibson may be reached at rgibson@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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