- 01. The Good Ain't Gone
- 02. Every Night I Leave You in My Mind
- 03. Don't Make Me Break Your Heart
- 04. It Won't Be Long (And I'll Be Hating You)
- 05. I Just Lost My Mind
- 06. I Don't Like that Mirror
- 07. The Tear I Left Behind
- 08. Empty House Dawn and Twilight
- 09. Let's Leave Me
- 10. Heartache to Hide
- 11. Black Iron Bridge
These days, it seems that originality in Country music is an oxymoronic proposition. The hillbilly highway to the top is jammed with tour buses full of publicists, make-up artists, wardrobe consultants, jean ironers, boot lickers, and, oh yeah, a guy in the back with a guitar. Littering the airwaves and outlet malls of America is their vacuous, fist-pumping brand of soft-rock arena country. It is music that takes its production cues from Sting, not Buck, harkens to the songbook of Glen Frey, not Glen Campbell, and prefers highwire acts and smoke machines to the kind of sharp wordplay and archetypal themes the music used to stand for.
Yes, let’s face it, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys are too good for their own good, too out of step to get in step, and too country to be country. On their fourth CD, Empty House, Rex and the boys deliver on the promise that between nostalgia and progress is timelessness. Within their realm of unabashed purveyors of straight, hard-edged honky-tonk, the band still manages to come off as fresh and innovative. Their outlook from the heart of country music gives them a clear shot at the crux of the identity crisis at its core: Who am I now that she is gone? What will become of me? Why do I do this to myself?
As a lyricist, Rex Hobart has proven to be well schooled by the masters: Paycheck, Silverstein, Haggard and Kristofferson. From clownish desperation, to escape fantasies you don’t have the strength to act on, to regret, to being driven to insanity, his writing breathes a harrowing honesty back into a form that too often staggers down the Hallmark card aisle. Only Rex could make you feel sorry for a man lamenting the failure of his extra-marital affair.
Supporting Rex’s tales are the Misery Boys, a band tighter than George Jones during a riding mower getaway chase. Lead guitar player J.B. Morris bends the strings of his Telecaster as adeptly as any Nashville session player, but with the lived-in pathos of a man thrice his age; pedal steel and Dobro wunderkind Solomon Hofer alternately makes the guitar gently weep on the ballads or fuel-injects the rig on the honky-tonk rockers, and drummer T.C. Dobbs and bassist Blackjack Snow drive it all home like they just got sprung from jail.
These songs may make you want to cry, but you won’t want the guys on the barstools next to you to see that, so grip the frosty mug and just keep smilin\', buddy. Just keep smilin\'.
\"Once again they pin country music to its roots while occasionally letting it squirm out and go elsewhere. Hobart\'s songwriting has always been good, but it makes a leap here. His stories have a literary sense of detail and just about every line contains a painful truth.\" Monica Kendrick, Chicago Reader
\"[They] do it with aplomb, setting the stories to a solid honky-tonk backdrop and trouncing the urge to wallow with humor, self-deprecation and surprise... [It] suggests that misery may be as unstoppable as nature.\" Patrick Langston, No Depression
\"This retro-leaning quintet shines due to Hobart\'s songwriting, which combines honky-tonk melodies with the carefully crafted poetry of a barstool psychiatrist [and] the unfettered production allows the listener to hear the space between the instrumental parts; the pedal steel work, in particular, is indispensable.\" Bobby Reed, Chicago Sun-Times
\"In the sure hands of seasoned troubadour like Rex Hobart, the well-trod themes of cheating, drinking and insanity sound fresh... [they] swirl in the mind like a warm glass of whiskey -- straight, no chaser.\" Jon La Briola, Denver Westword
\"They don\'t call them the Misery Boys for nothing. Rough emotions are delivered with subtle flair on tracks that are as painful as they are cathartic.\" Nathan Dinsdale, Music Pitch
\"He is a traditionalist who has never resorted to the costumed retro-act trap, and he has rewarded his fans by keeping the focus on quality songwriting.\" T.J. Simon, Country Standard Time
\"Hobart has filled 11 songs with solid songwriting and music seemingly recorded in one take, around one microphone. This is what country used to sound like, and what, God willing, it always will.\" Tyson Lynn, Tablet