Album Review – Bobby Dove’s “Hopeless Romantic”

photo: Jen Squires

Get ready to rearrange the hierarchy of your Canadian country music depth charts. Hell, get ready shake it up in the lower 48 and everywhere else as well, because Bobby Dove has just released a record that will have you crying and moaning along with some of the best classic country music composed in new original songs that’s come down the pike in quite a while.

I’m not sure if Hank Williams or Hank Snow kept a mistress in Montreal or Manitoba maybe we didn’t hear about and passed some genes down, or what has possessed Bobby Dove to become like a vessel or channeler for all the great classic country music influences we so sorely miss. But this is some of the most authentically-rendered and true-to-inspiration country music you can root out, while still holding onto enough originality to hit your ears with a welcomed freshness.

The simplicity of some of the writing, and the straightforward approach of the music may have you worried at first if this new album Hopeless Romantic is meaty enough to hold your attention after a few initial spins. But it’s that same simplicity that is the genius behind the effort. It pushes all the extra stuff aside to focus on a mood, a message, and a melody. It’s the “3 chords and the truth” mantra incarnate.

Bobby Dove then assembles some of the best pickers in Canada, and puts them to work on songs directly inspired by the Golden era of country. You’re only able to pull off this kind of country record with the right pickers who are studious as you about the modes and tones to put the mood of the music in the proper context. The way the steel guitar licks are spot on and reminiscent of Hank and Lefty, and the piano comes fluttering in and out like Patsy Cline, it gives you shivers.

Meanwhile Bobby’s vocal delivery is effortless, even if perhaps a bit nondescript. But nothing is forced or embellished here, and there’s a beauty in the dryness employed that conveys the lonesome pain of the lyrics deftly. Bobby Dove sings it, and you believe and feel it.

Dove even has the audacity to include a song in “El Hormiguero” completely recited in Spanish. Much more favorable than the average Spanish-tinged country track where somebody’s buddy has an accordion and they spring for a horn section in the studio, Bobby brings out the beauty of the Spanish language in country music, and goes deeper than simply braying the word “cerveza” into sloppy Spanglish verses.

You can talk about how it’s the simplicity of country music that lends to its beauty, or you can illustrate it like Bobby Dove has done with Hopeless Romantic. “Chance in Hell” with fellow Canadian country artist Jim Cuddy, “My World’s Getting Smaller,” and the final song “New Ends, New Beginnings” are just about some of the best tear jerking examples of classic country music you can find, while “Gas Station Blues” gives this record some needed growl and energy. Add the acoustic “Golden Years,” and this album offers a good variety, while still remaining fastly within the classic country realm.

Also hats off to notable Canadian country musicians such as David Baxter on lead guitar, Jimmy Bowskill on fiddle, Burke Carroll on pedal steel, Steve O’Connor on piano, and everyone else for interpreting this music so true.

8.5/10

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