Greg Hobbs Threats & Promises (Puddle Thief Music) Rating: NNN
What is it that separates the superlative songwriter from the merely good? There's no simple formula, no rule that can't be broken. Hobbs stands tall on Threats & Promises, strumming a nice line of folk-rock balladry. But it's not the grand gesture you'd expect. His vocal mannerisms are caught somewhere between the twanging barbs of Dylan and the plain-dealing sincerity of John Prine. Not bad in itself. It's worked well for Dan Bern, but where Bern is inspired in his imitation, Hobbs is underwhelming. Despite the obvious fact that Hobbs is good, you can't help feeling that someone has left an "i" undotted, a "t" uncrossed. Maybe it's just that his lyrical observations seem too pedestrian and what you'd hope would sound folksy and wise sounds, well, mundane. Greg Hobbs launches Threats & Promises at the Poor Alex Saturday (February 21).