Big Bob Young,
Hard Way to Make a Dollar
(A Man Around the House Records, 2009)

In his 50-plus years on this planet, Big Bob Young has been a member of the armed forces, mechanic, college student, farrier, telegram singer and clown, along with other occupations. He has seen a couple of marriages dissolve and has outlived a wife. He has raised four children. On all of his stops along the way, he has been a musician and a songwriter. Big Bob Young has seen some living and has learned his lessons. And now, comfortably settled into middle-life, he has cut this CD.

You can hear his background in his songs. "Ship of Fools" is about broken love, about trying and failing, while "Best of a Bad Situation" deals with not trying and getting thrown out. He sings of good girls gone wrong and the hard times that come from working bad jobs for little money. If there's a dominant theme to the album, it is the need to connect with other people, to establish relationships so that we can find meaning and comfort.

Young never oversells these themes. He makes his statements in a weathered, bluesy voice and arrangements that have more than a touch of Stax-Volt and southern folk-blues to them. Some people, listening to this record, might say that the set's biggest weakness is Big Bob Young's voice. His singing does have its limitations, but it's more than suitable for his material. Besides, if your idea of a great voice is Alan Jackson, you've got no business listening to Big Bob Young anyway. As June Carter Cash says, it's not who has the best pipes, it's who has the most soul.

Big Bob Young, with his five decades of hard living, has a lot of soul.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

30 May 2009

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