AJ Hobbs was recently nominated for “Best Outlaw Male” at The Ameripolitan Awards, which was held just three days before the release of his new album, Too Much Is Never Enough. Created by rockabilly legend, Dale Watson, the Ameripolitans honor traditional country artists in the four categories of outlaw, honkytonk, rockabilly and western swing. The ceremony has helped launch the alternative careers of Margo Price and Whitey Morgan, so when California native Hobbs was nominated, people started to listen.
Hobbs released the album at The Escondite, in downtown Los Angeles, with a rowdy party and a performance with a five-piece band. His good-timing songs are reminiscent of Charley Pride and Waylon Jennings at a time when country music was marrying up with disco, but Hobbs keeps his stories modern while still offering up a healthy serving of nostalgia. Songs like “Daddy Loved The Lord,” pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable radio play, as he tells his own true story of his father who swung the pendulum hard between whiskey and God without stopping long enough to mend a broken family. His dark lyrics are set against a sanguine gospel melody that won’t let you forget the message, and the same is true for most of the album.
Hobbs opens the record with “Too Much is Never Enough,” a troublemaking party song about life on the road. The song is fast paced with slicing guitar riffs by Storm Rhode IV and lets listeners know they may want to buckle their seatbelts. Then we come upon “The Loser,” which puts Hobbs right in line with outlaw peers, consisting of a heavy backbeat and a lonesome pedal steel by John Schreffler, Jr. Hobbs lyrics are thorn-filled and wild, just like the tumbleweeds rolling through his desert hometown.
“The Bottle Let Me Down,” a Merle Haggard cover, is a fat sounding ballad, like something closing a bar at the end of a failed Saturday night in New Orleans. Big Horns by co-producer Ted Russel Kamp and John Whoolilurie lead the procession and you can almost hear the hangover setting in. He pushes listeners right into Sunday with an epic nod to the 70’s on “Eastside,” where the build-ups are a little like Ronnie Millsap’s “Smoky Mountain Rain,” but Hobbs adds some soul with angelic background vocals and sinful steel.
Tennessee could be underwater and Hobbs charismatic personality could still sell the entire state with his happy, toe-tapping’ “Are You Going to Tennessee?” While it’s hard to believe there could be so much good music on a single album, Hobbs has filled every inch of space with 12 lovesick sounds of the south.
Check out Too Much Is Never Enough and catch him live this March at SXSW before he takes off to Vinstra Country Music Festival in Norway.
by Bylle Breaux / Photos by Matt Stasi
Published in Wide Open Country.