By Denver-Rose Harmon, Staff Writer
I was an instant fan of Bobby Dove on my first listen to their lead single “Hopeless Romantic,” but I’ve been swindled many times by a lead single that catches my attention only to draw it to an unimpressive album. So when the full album – also titled “Hopeless Romantic” – dropped, I pressed play with a prayer to the spirits of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline that it would meet my expectations.
Dove exceeded them.
The Dove has their own distinct sound, but that sound is a beautiful tribute to classic country. Every track made my head spin for the first couple of bars, as they felt so familiar I was sure I knew them. But as Dove continued crooning and the steel guitar cried it became clear that they had made this familiar style all their own. I am not a religious or spiritual woman, but I’m convinced that the ghost of a country legend is using Bobby as a vessel. (The Phantom of the Opry, if you will.)
That’s not to say the album is a downer. “Hopeless Romantic” is a light-hearted opener despite its subject of unrequited love; “Gas Station Blues” is a boot-stomping romp, and “Chance in Hell” is a danceable jam. But with song titles such as “Early Morning Funeral” and “My World’s Getting Smaller” you can anticipate some good, old-fashioned, cryin’ time country. My favorite lyrical moment happens when Dove rhymes Demerol with funeral (making me suspect an Isbell influence.)
The icing on the cake that is this album (and I imagine the cake is a rich chocolate with a strawberry filling and pink icing, for the record) is hearing this broken-hearted crooning come from such an androgynous voice. No matter how much the Dove’s vocals hearken to Hank Williams, they are not purely masculine, so they automatically give the old-fashioned sounds and subject matter an update. When Dove calls the subject of their affection a queen in “Chance in Hell,” or mourns a breakup with a woman in “New Endings New Beginnings,” it is a beautiful declaration of queer love. Subverting the genre’s traditionally conservative images of love and heartbreak while remaining true to its classic musical stylings will always be incredibly satisfying and sweet.
In short, if you want all the twang and crooning of classic country music without the traditional straight man point of view, you will find it on Hopeless Romantic. Available now wherever you get your music.