Threats & Promises
Toronto-based singer/songwriter Greg Hobbs combines the wry outlook of John Prine and the folksy rasp of Slaid Cleaves on this set of rootsy tunes about lonely drunks and dreamers. While not always startlingly original, Threats and Promises occasionally breathes new life into familiar characters and situations.
That’s certainly true on the rocker “Tonight the Guys Are Coming Over,” in which Hobbs tries to explain to his wife what will be going on downstairs while she’s trying to sleep with a pillow over her head. It’s a recognizable scenario that Hobbs relates with engaging humor. A bonus live track here also provides some sorely needed levity. “Tell me why do the beautiful girls always pick/Assholes and losers and dicks,” he queries as the audience joins the sing-along.
More representative of the record, however, are tunes like the solo acoustic title track, about an alcoholic who only misses his girl in his sober moments. Or the pedal steel-colored “Me & This Girl,” about a married guy drinking in a bar who dreams about walking out the door with a girl he sees there. And then there’s the guy in “Leave This Town” who spends half his life being lonely. “I used a lot of lovers for stepping-stones/I let all the others trample all over me,” he sings. These songs, while never less than pleasant, aren’t terribly challenging or clever either.
This makes “What Sandra Said” a welcome change of pace. What sounds at first like a break-up song wanders into a condemnation of the war in Iraq. “As this world waits for a war/I can hear the battle crying loud/Didn’t make sense when I was a child/Doesn’t make sense now,” Hobbs sings. “I can see through that oily ambition/Looks to me like blood.”
It’s moments like these that help the record rise above an otherwise pervasive blandness. Hobbs is a pretty basic meat-and-potatoes folk rocker. Still, if you’re not looking for something too adventurous, you could do a lot worse.
Greg Hobbs: www.greghobbs.com