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The Best Show You Didn’t See: The Hobart Brothers & Lil’ Sis Hobart at AllGood on April 5

Freedy Johnston looks like FDR is a Wisconsin fan.

At least, the image of the 32nd President we have become used to seeing in movies: vertically-oriented face, closed jaw that looks like it would be more at home with a cigarette holder grasped in his teeth. Tonight, he’s wearing a red and white “Wisconsin” T-shirt and matching ball cap.

Susan Cowsill calls to mind the favorite cousin who went off to school in California and came back a little Bohemian: ripped jeans, loose peasant blouse under a sweater she’s constantly readjusting about herself, black military-style cap pulled down to thoroughly shadow her eyes.

Then there’s Jon Dee Graham. He’s reminiscent of that one uncle. You know the one–your dad’s brother whom your mother is just not quite comfortable having around because his laugh is just a little too hearty, his language a lot too salty, his loose-hanging flannel shirt entirely too casual for her dinner table. But he’s great, partly because he annoys Mom.

John Dee takes the AllGood stage first, and gives a solo performance of a couple of his well-loved songs. His lone acoustic guitar is raw and heavy–but nimble. His voice is a growl that would be at home in a smokey blues bar in New Orleans, or a sleepy honky-tonk in Nashville–which breaks into silky smoothness at the proper moments of a tender song.

Then Freedy replaced him onstage, for a couple of his own. His voice is higher-pitched and slightly nasal–and that’s not at all bad. It works. And matches his acoustic playing, which is somehow lighter and definitely higher than Jon Dee’s.

The boys convince Susan to do one, so she borrows Freedy’s guitar. Her voice is homespun silk–rough cut fabric woven from the smoothest of threads. Her guitar is a little tentative at first (I don’t think she’s rehearsed this song) but picks up and she ends up as sure as either of the guys.

The Hobart Brothers” join “Lil’ Sis Hobart” onstage, and the camaraderie which had been evident as they talked and joked back and forth between the one onstage and the two in the audience became what this trio truly is: three masters joining forces to produce magic. Mixed metaphors intended. And appropriate.

Their voices complement each other well, trading off lead vocals on songs, with one or two on background. The guys’ guitars seemingly weave in and out of each other, and Susan just has fun–in time (and in lieu of a drummer)–with her tambourine. And they’re having fun, the other 2 verbally cheering on on a guitar solo, or providing a “call and response” to some of the lyrics. All 3 teasing each other between songs.

Shift forward in time (and tense): the show was just fun. Fun to watch, fun to tap your toes to, fun to laugh with.

It’s not often that I am going to say this here (more likely, never again): Go to Austin to see them do this. Seriously, find out where they are playing, and go. Houston–GO. OKC–GO. El Paso–GO. Poughkeepsie–Do what ya gotta, but GO.

The show will be well worth the trip.

And you might just see me there.

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