Monday, March 03, 2008

Jill Sobule

Jill Sobule might just be the best singer-songwriter working. For my money, her ability to create and inhabit characters is as complete as Tom Waits' and her range is greater than his. She has the quirk factor that I miss everywhere else since Warren Zevon died. Her personal back-story is rich enough to yield little gnarly boxed-in truths like "Big Shoes," while her imagination can take her just about anywhere ("Mexican Wrestler"). Unlike some rock devotees, I don't lament the death of the album: Too often they felt like those dreadful movies based on "SNL" skits. But Sobule's albums are like a fantastic short story collection.

I'm not good at linking to music, but if this is right it will take you to a download of "Vrbana Bridge," about an incident in the Bosnia War that I remember from working the newswire. It stayed with me for a decade, when I thought everyone else had forgotten it, and then I heard this song on her album and recognized it at once. It was one of those moments when you connect with a performer not because she draws you in to her amazing world, but because you realize she's been walking some of the same paths in this one, seeing it with similar eyes.

Like others I tend to enjoy (e.g. Letters to Cleo) She's also been punished by the trap of the one-hit wonder; in her case, "I Kissed a Girl," and she's been bounced around by the labels as that systems twitches in its deathbed.

Now she's trying something new:

Contributors can choose a level of pledges ranging from the $10 "unpolished rock," which earns them a free digital download of her disc when it's made, to the $10,000 "weapons-grade plutonium level," where she promises "you get to come and sing on my CD. Don't worry if you can't sing _ we can fix that on our end."

I don't know if it's the wave of the future or not. Probably not, actually. But I wish her well at it, and go check out her site explaining the whole thing for a taste of her sardonic style.