Like some other recent Boys--the Weary Boys, the Star Room Boys--Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys are reviving the nearly lost art of honky tonk music. Although it always survived in road houses and, well, honky tonks, the massive popularity of country lite and stadium country has knocked the clean, hard sound of honky tonk completely off the charts and back into the bars. Honky tonk has always been a bit edgier and more morally suspect than standard Nashville country, so it's no surprise that younger musicians like Rex Hobart and his Misery Boys--who have imbibed large does of punk rock and rock 'n' roll--have gravitated toward it as the real, hold-the-gloss country music.
Hailing from Kansas City, Rex and his crew throw some serious chops and a few new variations on the theme of heartbreak into Empty House, their fourth CD. Honky-tonk hero Johnny Paycheck's "It Won't Be Long (And I'll Be Hating You)" is given a big, cosmic weepy rendering that would make the Sadies--or Gram Parsons--proud. Guitar player J.B. Morris (outstanding from start to finish) rips sharp leads throughout "I Don't Like That Mirror" that recall the Long Ryders. Rex sings in a fine, steady if unspectacular twangy tenor, and the Misery Boys nail all the right moves with finesse and grace. Although the songs may be drenched in loss and regret, Rex sings with a subtle nod and a wink, a sly indicator that maybe things really aren't all that bad. If you're a fan of folks named Merle and Buck, this one's for you.