Memphis native Jobu Babin knows the demons that accompany songwriters: the incessant wordplay, the fear and loathing of anything cliche, and sometime futile attempts to match the mood of a vocal to, well, anything. And, of course, the biggest concern, "can anybody GET this?" "Its a patchwork. I write like I'm making a quilt." Pieces come and go, vocals rise and fall, and ideas not quite musical generally take over the process, yet, Jobu's songs stare in the face of convention.
"I've never been fond of direct lyrics, maybe that's a cop-out but I have my own ideas of what the songs mean, and I want to leave it to the listener to have his/her own. Why should I do the thinking for them? But it's a fine line because what you really want is the communication."
Esoteric lyrics aside, Jobu Babin as a performer is much more easily received. A sometimes abused acoustic guitar foils a strong and moving vocal style, the range of which is tested repeatedly. The music teases as folk-rock, only to dissolve into a Pixies-style rant at society, disfunctional relationships, and the creative process itself. Still, the beauty of a vocal completely plugged in to its emotional source eventually brings peace, as with the strangely uplifting " With Heavy Hand". Anyone who has seen Jobu Babin's solo acoustic performances knows he doesn't folk around. At times he transmits more manic energy by himself than most four-piece bands do. Jobu's music stays with you long after he walks off stage. Clearly, his skill as a performer can only be described as "unique". His combination of song and conversation makes even a large audience seem intimate. His vocals are delivered with all the casual faltering and vulnerable charm of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, occasional unabashed rock of Lennon, and cliff-hanging falsettos of Thom Yorke
As a young guitarist, Jobu spent time transforming words into lyrics and notes into melodies. After experiencing an accident where one of his fingers was severed, playing the guitar took a backseat in his life, but not the writing. Evidenced by his soon to be released album, the mental pictures take the reins. Yet soon, a new guitar style took over, percussive and pronounced, such that playing with a band seemed almost counterproductive.
Missing from the normal acoustic lexicon are the (obvious) love songs. It's music about nightmares, cannibals, absynthe ("Mark My Words"), and pilgrimages. It overflows with tight, shimmering indie-rock, relentless D-modal drones (ala Neil Young), impressionistic narratives, and head-twisting acoustic guitar meltdowns. It fires you up, slows you down, and settles you into midtempo grooves ("The Motorist") that create ample space for deep reflection on the meaning of family, loss, faith, and self. Babin eloquently pares such weighty topics down to pithy, unsentimental lyrics that balance concrete imagery with poetic allusions to different realms of existence. Pure anti-folk.