Lonesome Bob looks like the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley somewhere. Standing tall and imposing on the cover of his second CD with his bald head and goatee, he looks like he might have wandered in off the set of Oz. On the opening, hard rocking “Got Away With It,” he even sings “I should be behind bars tonight.” Fortunately, Lonesome Bob’s talent stands just as tall and imposing on Things Change.
A New Jersey native, Lonesome Bob (nee Robert Chaney) has been kicking around since the ’80s, first playing drums for the Ben Vaughn Combo before making a move to Nashville in the ’90s and eventually recording his debut album, Things Fall Apart.
If you’re looking for a way to sum up Bob’s lyrical perspective, look no further than the song title “It’d Be Sad if it Weren’t So Funny.” That song’s litany of life’s twisted ironies is Things Change in a nutshell. Fats Kaplan’s pedal steel colors the catchy “Heather’s All Bummed Out.” “She’s got her cubicle decorated with pictures of Harrison Ford / Right next to her fiance, sometimes a girl gets bored,” Bob sings. “Cause she’s pushing 35, and we all know what that means / So she’s settling down and setting some goals at the expense of her dreams.”
Lonesome Bob turns soulful on the B3 organ-tinged “In the Time I Have Left,” in which he sings of lost love: “Forever is an abstract painted on a lie.” The title track (which features Amy Rigby on backing vocals) is similarly about hanging onto the memories of love gone wrong. “But I cling to a memory that hangs on my wall,” he sings. “The warmth of that summer, and the chill of that fall / We’re together forever / Not a cloud in the sky / On a boat bound for nowhere.”
Steve Allen (who co-produced the record) and Tim Carroll contribute some incendiary guitar work to “Where Are You Tonight,” a tense, taut little number that builds in power instrumentally and vocally. Pete Finney’s pedal steel and Bill Dwyer’s electric fretwork on “I Get Smarter Every Drink” give it the feel of something from the Merle Haggard or George Jones catalogues. “It’s not that I’m a quiet guy / It’s just that when I’m sober I can’t seem to make my mouth say what I think,” Bob sings. “Drinking ’til I cannot stand / Is a lot more fun than years of therapy.”
Of course, it’s just like Bob to follow that with “Dying Breed,” which tells a much darker side to the story of addiction: “I take after my family / My fate’s the blood in me / No one grows old in this household / We are a dying breed.” The song was penned by Allison Moorer, who also sings backup on much of the record, and who experienced family tragedy at an early age. Speaking of dark, “Weight of the World” (with ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer on the skins) is the story of a guy struggling to make ends meet that ends rather shockingly.
Perhaps to explain himself, Lonesome Bob offers a humorous disclaimer in the liner notes. It reads in part as follows: “The songs on this record are just that. Songs. They are not special messages from Jesus or Satan or the neighbor’s dog. They are not intended to influence you to inflict damage, harm or death on yourself or anyone else.”
Lonesome Bob may be a scary-looking guy with occasionally scary songs. But Things Change is also one scarily good record.
Lonesome Bob: http://www.lonesomebob.com