Best of 2007: The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank SING!
Released through Consider It Correspondence Records, The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank’s CD Sing! has an array of music styles complemented by a fundamental core of folk. It is easy listening, yet makes you tap your feet to the steady beats.
“Like all the CDs we release, we can only hope it will latch on with American culture, sell millions, and then be found immoral in some way by a conservative group somewhere,” Teague Alexy of the Hobos said. “And have piles of our CDs burned ceremoniously.”
The album begins with a honky-tonk twang of a tune titled, “Uncle Frank’s Basement”. When Alexy sings the lyrics, “I got a bunk in Uncle Frank’s basement back in Jersey,” you feel like he is reminiscing about his hometown.
His bunk in that Jersey “Basement” has a danceable beat and a Dylan feel from the harmonica and Alexy’s voice. Talking with him about the Dylan connection, he explained that his brother and fellow band mate Ian was the first to be introduced that type of music.
“The first time I remember hearing Bob Dylan was when our dad gave Ian the Highway 61 record,” Alexy explained. “Ian loved it and was excited for me to hear it, I was such a hip-hop kid that I didn't bother to listen to much else, but he was convinced I would like Dylan. So one morning when he knew I was home he cranked it up, the problem was that I had been out drinking the night before and that voice coming through the walls just killed me… it wasn't until a couple of years later when I bought the same album for my birthday that I could believe how good it was.”
As for the song “Uncle Frank’s Basement” Alexy said, “I rewrote that song twice, and usually when I start rewriting the song it ends up getting shelved. At first it was real literal about growing up in Jersey and it name-called some of our friends there, but I ended up trashing most of that for more wordplay and symbolism to put the song where it needed to be. A lot of my time there was confusing and without direction. It’s therapeutic to be able to meditate on it and put it into song. And to think of Uncle Frank throwing back a few Budweisers and telling people about the song puts a smile on my face a mile wide.”
The next song on the album, “Go On Back Home” is written and sung by Ian Alexy. This song rides the rails of a catchy train beat, and has a fiddle riding that steals the show from the caboose. That fiddle is played excellently by Ryan young, who some may know from Trampled By Turtles or Pert Near Sandstone.
The train beat was no accident when speaking with Alexy, he talked about how an artist is influenced by their surroundings.
“There is a cargo train line about 50 yards in front of my house and a train will roll by every hour or so,” Alexy said. “If you are an artist your surroundings will always come through in your work whether you mean them to or not. I have always adored train songs and I am glad that I did not write any before I lived near the tracks.”
Another song that stood out on the album was “Love Don’t Kill Me” and Ian Alexy’s lyrics, “Love hurts, but I guess it doesn’t kill.” It is a moody song and slower paced.
“Babydoll Blues” had a smooth electric guitar in the background accompanied by steady acoustic and maracas keeping the beat.
“Drifting Away” took the album into classic country and a Loretta Lynn when she did her album with Jack White feel. The lyrics slide with the guitar, “It’s your last cigarette, got a song you’ve never met.. Drifting away from your home..”
Alexy talked about how his brother Ian had listened to the album, Van Lear Rose, and some of the Hobos other influences.
“When we are doing the Hobo Nephews we try and focus on people like Woody Guthrie, Sonny Boy Williamson, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and also more contemporary people like Greg Brown.”
The album veers in a catchy direction with the Celtic feeling of “Lamous Fast” and its Dylan drinking song feel. Alexy explained the difference from their other influences on songs like “Lamous Fast”.
“The song “Lamous Fast” is kind of an Irish song that goes back to our Grandmom singing around the house and Ii don't know if “Lamous Fast” or “Uncle Frank's Basement” would have come out how they did if I didn't rap for years. There is also a part of “Brakeman” where during Ian's guitar solo he plays something that sounds like Thelonious Monk that he never would have pulled off if he hadn't studied jazz. So we are trying to make blues and roots music, but are not afraid to let ourselves through in subtle ways… we did not grow up on a ranch in Texas or a cotton field in Mississippi and to try and make the music sound like we did would make it soulless.”
On the song “2010” Molly Maher provides a raspy voice that blends well with Teague Alexy’s. Maher’s voice had this snarl in it that gave even the maracas playing a sinister feel.
“2010 was one of the first songs I ever wrote,” Alexy said. "I cleaned up some of the tasteless lyrics of my youth and turned it into a duet. I’ve never recorded a duet before so I was kind of nervous about it when Molly and I sang it live. Later we had fun with it and it just seemed to work.”
You can purchase the album at their show or visit www.teaguealexy.com,