Hob­nail step up again

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By MATTHEW DALLAS

Porirua singer-song­writer Rob Joass has writ­ten his share of ‘‘ heart­break­ers’’ in the 17 years since he formed Hob­nail Boots, but none more au­then­tic than those which com­prise the band’s fifth al­bum, Bag­gage.

His mar­riage to Jo Moir, the band’s fid­dler, came to an end in 2008. Though an emo­tion­ally tough time, Joass had no short­age of in­spi­ra­tion for his song­writ­ing, which has al­ways leaned to­wards wist­ful and wry re­flec­tion, never far from the heart of coun­try and folk mu­sic.

While he ac­cepts that Bag­gage is a ‘‘break-up al­bum’’, he had no in­ten­tion of bum­ming lis­ten­ers or band mem­bers out with ‘‘drunken mis­ery’’.

‘‘You have to eval­u­ate if it is a valid piece of mu­sic or just put­ting emo­tional stuff down on pa­per. I had to let the songs lie around for a while.

‘‘I didn’t want to fo­cus on a short pe­riod of a bust-up, like Ryan Adams’ Heart­breaker. I was more in­ter­ested in the pass­ing of time, the op­ti­mism and un­der­stand­ing that comes from it . . . It’s not just about a re­la­tion­ship be­ing over, but mov­ing for­ward.’’

Joass culled 25 tracks down to nine, and also bor­rowed The War­ratahs’ the­mat­i­cally apt Hands of My Heart.

Not know­ing what was hap­pen­ing with the band, its fu­ture or Moir’s in­volve­ment, he worked the songs to­wards a stripped-back solo al­bum.

Ul­ti­mately, though, when you have tal­ented mu­si­cians for friends, you want to get them in the stu­dio, he says – Moir in­cluded.

‘‘There’s no big­ger fan of all of our songs than Jo. The ti­tle track Bag­gage is me and Jo singing at each other.’’

He found that many of the songs res­onated more from fuller ar­range­ments and were son­i­cally con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous Hob­nail Boots al­bums.

In addition to Bag­gage and a tour sup­port­ing its re­lease, the band has added Cana­dian Bon­nie Ri­ley on guitar and dropped the ‘‘Boots‘‘ from their moniker.

Joass says Ri­ley has a real feel for coun­try mu­sic, and it’s nice to have a band­mate who can sing coun­try mu­sic with a le­git­i­mate Amer­i­can twang.

It also frees him up to play more elec­tric guitar, banjo and man­dolin when per­form­ing.

‘‘It’s cer­tainly added more tex­ture to our live shows,’’ he says.

Joass says the name down­size is ‘‘a bit of a re­brand to re­flect a slight change of fo­cus’’ – and, quite sim­ply, Hob­nail looks bet­ter on a poster.

New model: The’ve lost the ‘Boots’ but Hob­nail are still kick­ing. From left, Bon­nie Ri­ley, Caro­line Eas­ther, Rob Joass, Hamish Gra­ham, Jo Moir.

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