Two weeks from now, this little Kansas City bar will be the scene for the CD release party for The Spectacular Sadness Of Rex Hobart And The Misery Boys, produced by renowned Skeletons honcho Lou Whitney. Tonight, it’s just Rex and his guitar — and it’s working.
Between songs, Hobart carefully pulls in the room, attentive to the other musicians in the showcase. But when he bursts into his songs, he transforms — older, face squinched up, brow furrowed. He digs into “Bridge Burners Union (Local 36)” and he becomes the guy who’s just lost his gal and is perfectly willing to gleefully kick over every other aspect of his life.
Next, as he breaks into “Let’s Keep Lying Here”, another tune from the new CD, Hobart’s growth as a songwriter is obvious, These songs keep snagging a listener on the kinds of phrases that surely couldn’t be new — but they are. In this one, two lovers with roughly three or four days left in their relationship, stuck with their own deceit, decide to “lie together” for at least a couple more nights. In “Here Comes Nothing”, Hobart declares that “I always said that nothing would come between us…but nothing just walked in the door.”
“About three years ago, I was playing in a rock band, but on the road I was writing country songs just for kicks,” Hobart recalls. “My mom had written some country songs when I was still at home, and I sort of had an ear for it, and of course I grew up to listening to what they’re now calling hard country and honky-tonk, in particular.
“I started putting together this country band, almost on a whim. I wanted to something that was pretty straightforward, traditional, with a ’60s country sound. I’d like to think we’ve grown a little bit, working with that sound — grown a little more subtle.”
The “we” is his band, the Misery Boys — J.B. Morris (lead guitar, vocals), Solomon Hofer (pedal steel, dobro), Blackjack Snow (bass) and T.C. Dobbs (drums). Even though their songs are rooted in a honky-tonk world, though, this isn’t a retro act. “I’ve spent some time thinking about that, where nostalgia and timelessness start turning into one another, and it’s a blurry place,” says Hobart. “I like to think we’ve got our own twist to it, too.”
Asked about the huge range of tunes on the band’s new Bloodshot Records disc, all of which are centered on some version of mournfulness, Hobart smiles. “I’ve always been interested in the spectacle of sadness,” he says. “I mean there you are, singing sad songs, but you’re up onstage.…Isn’t that what country music’s all about?”