Freedy Johnston

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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.

The Hobart Brothers & Lil’ Sis Hobart at AllGood

We got a big event coming up next week at the AllGood.

The Hobart Brothers & Lil’ Sis Hobart is a sort of supergroup composed of Austin legend Jon Dee Graham, New York’s Freedy Johnston, and the little sister of the legendary family band The Cowsills (upon whom the Partridge Family TV show was based)–Susan Cowsill.

OK, so I am gonna confess–I’m not at all familiar with Freedy Johnston (though I had at least heard of him when his name came up). I’m also not real familiar with The Cowsills, though I did watch a hell of a lot of Love, American Style when I was a kid and anything on the idiot box entertained me (The Cowsills performed the theme song) and, of course, The Partridge Family, and who hasn’t heard the iconic Hair? And I honestly didn’t know Susan Cowsill had her own career.

Both are my oversight, and based on what I’ve heard from The Hobart Brothers–and what of their solo efforts I’ve had time to listen to–I’ll correct, soonest.

Jon Dee Graham is another matter entirely. The man is considered something of a legend in Austin–and he oughtta be selling out shows here. I first became aware of him a few years ago, when he was trying to establish a “residency” (aka a “regular gig”) one night a month at The AllGood. A friend who has known Jon Dee personally for 20-some-odd years basically begged me to come to the show one night. I heard Jon Dee play his acoustic and his “lap steel” and belt out some of the most heartfelt lyrics I have ever heard in his gravelly country-meets-blues voice–and I have tried very hard to get to all of his shows since.

The problem is–no one here knows him. I have seen him play chronically under-attended gigs here in Dallas. This is a complete travesty–and, really, the reason we don’t get more intimate live music up here. We should not have to drive to Austin to see this stuff.

For real–say his name in Austin, and they know who you are talking about. Say “Jon Dee” to Bob Schneider, James McMurtry, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Charlie Sexton, or Alejandro Escovedo–or the people who go to their shows down there–and they know who he is. He’s got great people playing with him–I’ve seen Jon Dee play with Andrew Duplantis, who has been the bass player for Son Volt for several years now, and with Fastball drummer Joe Shuffield. Both Andrew and Joe are also part of Jon Dee’s semi-regular backing band, The Fighting Cocks.

And, yeah–damn right I’m dropping names.

Jon Dee Graham, alone, should be filling bigger venues. Solo, he should be filling the Kessler. This deal with The Hobart Brothers should be filling the Granada, or maybe even House of Blues.

The fact is–next Thursday (that’s April 5), you and I and all too few others will be able to eat a good meal–AllGood’s food is great–and enjoy a very intimate show with this awesome, awesome “supergroup”. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that they will tear completely through the one album The Hobart Brothers recorded together (which is greatness, IMHO), and have time for some of the artists’ solo work.

Seriously–do not miss this show.