The definition of "singer-songwriter"
I CAN'T REMEMBER if Paul Simon actually sang with the Beatles at the recording sessions for Dylan's "Nashville Skyline", but that's just what you get on "Till We Meet Again", the new album from California singer-songwriter Paul Hobbs.
A dozen sparkling tracks about love and loss, joy and disillusionment, "Till We Meet Again" is all that's great about our collective pop consciousness, lovingly ushered into a new era wrapped in the warm, affectionate embrace of Hobbs' clean, clear tenor.
His tingly-jangly toe-tapping kick-off track, "You Were the Right One", boasts a cool acoustic groove like a countrified escapee from "Rubber Soul" until the lead guitar solo (by Richard Green) leapfrogs us into George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass". The post-bridge interlude is all Paul Simon's early '70s melancholy, and the final chorus make you beg for the replay button.
"Rain Down Love" and "Like You Wouldn't Believe" are soulful and funky, "Heaven On Earth" exudes the joyful exuberance of a vintage Ringo Starr track, and "Wondering" has the introspective sophistication of a Sondheim ballad.
Hobbs isn't shy about sharing the personal pain, angst, anxiety, and disillusionment common to every 21st-century family man. In "Goodbye Face", we waltz with shattered trust; will a new love be able to keep the ghosts away? "Still Dreaming" tosses and turns us through a long dark night of the soul, but how long will our new day last? It's not certain that even a "Vacation" (co-written with Green) will be much of a help, and even the joy of a long-term relationship isn't free of "My Little Heartache". The kids are growing up and leaving home; Hobbs sends his love from afar and wonders "Are You Listening?".
Only an artist of maturity and depth can deliver a certified first-phrase tear-jerker like "Till We Meet Again" with complete honesty, bereft of manipulative sentimentality. A eulogy for departed parents, it's a country waltz with piano, harmonium, and cello. Vocal fragments in trailed-off, broken lines render grief as truly inexpressible:
If I could tell you one more thing,
I'd tell you that it makes me glad
To think about the love we shared.
And it makes me --
If I could tell you one more thing,
I'd tell you not a day goes by
You're not in my thoughts and prayers.
Not a day goes --
If the passing of our parents is at least a natural, though tragic, part of the order of things, words fail at the untimely loss of a lifelong friend, and "Lullaby For Gary" says it all with none.
Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwrter Green (whose sophisticated and lovely album "Trampoline Man" is also available on CD Baby) produces, engineers, and plays almost everything; proof that lifelong friends make stellar collaborators.
Hobbs' acoustic guitar playing is just beautiful -- this erstwhile Nashville cat plays clean as country water. But it is his robust voice, fearlessly guided by a wide-open heart, that make this album the treasure it is. Decades of performing and a lifetime of heartfelt experience are the wings on which "Til We Meet Again" soars.
Hobbs and his kids out-Voormann Klaus Voormann with their Revolver-esque cover art. The only thing left to say about "Till We Meet Again" is, I hope it's soon.
Review from THE SANTA MARIA SUN
Songs from his soul:
Santa Maria singer-songwriter Paul Hobbs has found his voice in his latest musical release.
It’s a dream that’s been around as long as rock’n’roll itself: being in a band, being a rock star, playing music to adoring masses. While most dreamers actually only get as far as perfecting their air guitar and that fake, muffled audience scream, some get pretty close to the real thing.
Santa Maria resident Paul Hobbs had that dream as a child. He’s still waiting for his chance to play before a throng of screaming fans, but for now, he’s content with putting out good music.
Now he's a little grayer and a little wiser, and his life experiences have culminated in the release of his first CD, titled Till We Meet Again. The release has been a triumph—and a necessary means for working through some tough times.
The album is a compilation of songs inspired by a time of loss. Hobbs originally thought of the CD’s title several years ago when he lost his mother. Then, about two years ago, Hobbs’ father, former Santa Maria mayor George Hobbs, passed away. In recent years, he also lost a best friend and a nephew. The songs on his latest release reflect his attempts to work through those losses.
“Writing songs is fulfilling,” he said. “The ones that have deep meaning to you are cathartic. They are a way of working things out in your mind. You see a problem, and you come away with a better understanding.”
Hobbs’ tunes are acoustic folk/rock and guitar oriented. Many have to do with sorting out events in his life; others are “some whimsical stuff I thought would make a cool song,” he said.
“I’m pretty pleased with it,” he explained. “I was very obsessed with my vocals. I feel like when the record button goes on, I’m nervous. Then I listen to it and think [it’s] awful. Then the fourth time, it’s like, ‘That’s the least horrible ’.”
His sound reflects the music influencing him the first time he picked up a guitar in the sixth grade.
Initially, the Beatles inspired him. Later, he would be encouraged by the singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s and artists like Jackson Browne and James Taylor.
Hobbs took that inspiration and created a mellow style that he’s roughed up a bit. He takes that sound to the Santa Maria Brewing Co. every other Friday, where he gets a chance to connect personally with his audience and get feedback.
Hobbs always knew he’d find some level of success as a musician.
“I think my sixth-grade self believed I’d be a rock star,” he said. “I was always very confident I was going to be successful in music. Then, as you grow up, you find you become a mailman or something like that, and you try to keep the dream alive on the side.”
Though he’s now a mailman working in the Santa Ynez Valley, Hobbs is keeping the dream alive. He’s in an L.A.-based band called The Jacks, and has been for about eight years. They play gigs only occasionally.
But it wasn’t always something he did on the side.
About 10 years ago, Hobbs made a living by playing music. It gave him the chance to grow as a musician and plenty of time to strengthen his bond with his children. He said that he’s grateful for that time, and the experience even rubbed off on his kids.
His daughter plays piano, and both of his children play guitar and sing.
And even though none of his children followed in his musical footsteps, Hobbs collaborated with them for the cover of his CD. He and his two children each had a hand in creating the collage of line drawings that makes up the cover.
“This is something we always do,” he said. “We go out to dinner and draw on a napkin.”
From lyrics to music, napkin to CD cover, Hobbs is finally seeing his dream turn into reality.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of it, to have people talk to you about your songs and have favorites. I’ve always dreamed of it.”