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Jill Sobule


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Comedic, alternative pop, folk/rock

Status:

Most recent release, Dottie's Charms (2014)

See also:

Jill Sobule's site

Wikipedia's entry on Jill Sobule

Comparisons:

The bubbly, poppy persona of Cyndi Lauper with a '90s Liz Phair sensibility with a dash of Jewel. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Covers/own material:

Writes own material

General comments:

jill sobule plays smart, punchy guitar pop, writes matter-of-fact songs often tinged with humor but always revealing a keen observant eye, and sings with a sweet, but sardonic, voice. she's a surprisingly tasty guitarist too (it's not obvious from the records, but her talent really shows live). far as i'm concerned, her live shows are not to be missed. (woj@smoe.org)

Her music is kinda on the thin side. Not ethereal, not 'folk' simple, just thin. Jewel can *make* her voice sound like a little kid; Jill Sobule sounds like a little kid. (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)

I adore her first album (Things Here Are Different). I was underwhelmed by the second one. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

Jill Sobule is funny, folky, rocky music. Her music is as adorable as her personality and her person. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Comments about live performance:

I went to see Jill Sobule play with Lloyd Cole at the Double Door in Chicago. She was center-stage, solo, for over 1/2 hour. This naturally was great. Compared to Cole, (or anyone for that matter) she is a ball of musical energy. She is a great guitarist, sounding like a whole band in one person! I was most impressed. She just came alive on stage like few performers do. She was animated, fun, funky, funny, jumped around a lot. She played stuff mostly from the latest album. Sobule is one of those people who have an incredible facility with the guitar, who seem to just effortlessly go at it and make it sound amazing so much so that you look in disbelief and cannot understand how *that* sound can come out of her doing *that* to that instrument. Wow. I would put Shawn Colvin in that camp, and Jonatha Brooke, and Susan Werner...anyways, there it was, this very quirky, pixie-ish woman playing her songs for a while until Lloyd came back with his band and they actually backed *her* up on a few songs (which were equally great) and then they switched and Lloyd played the rest of the night except for "I kissed a Girl" which they did towards the end of the show.
     Watching Jill play backup/lead guitar for Cole was just fine. She still did some cool stuff on her gretsch and the mini-acoustic she had played before. Fun stuff. Who cares what the songs were, I just watched her the whole time.
     Bottom line—if you like her music, go see her. I hope she gets the recognition she deserves. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

jill was charming, entertaining, and articulate. i keep forgetting what a good guitar player she is. her songs sometimes leave a bit to be desired, but when they're good, they're great. and her songwriting has only gotten better. (woj@smoe.org)

I saw Jill Sobule play solo with her electric guitar. She is a delightful performer! She took requests from the audience and told wonderful little stories. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

Saw her a few weeks ago—excellent show! Jill brought her mom onstage to sing "Big Shoes" with her (about when she had to wear orthopedic shoes as a kid) and had the Jillettes onstage singing backup with her for a couple of songs. They were 3 high school girls (fans) who used to sing at her gigs sometimes a few years ago. What hams—they stole the show! Good singers though. (08/99, KBolin0418@aol.com) Jill was an engaging stage personality. I saw her at Lilith Fair 1997, and she had a short set, but she told lots of funny stories behind songs like "Margaret" and "Karen By Night," which are also funny songs. She was really relaxed as she tried to figure out which songs she felt like playing, and her sound was full and interesting even though she didn't have a backup band. She didn't play her trademark "I Kissed a Girl" though, despite loud and repeated requests from the crowd. (10/99, JoAnn.Whetsell)

Jill Sobule absolutely cracks me up, and last Friday night was no exception. She was very punchy, having come straight from a cross-country flight to the Cafe. (She had been in L.A., among other things playing guitar in a friend's band that they named "The Axis Of Evil".) The place was packed, and it turned into a very informal evening, as people asked questions and Jill engaged in conversation with the audience in between songs. She didn't really have a set list, and so ended up doing a lot of requests. She managed to fit in a few new songs, and recruited people from the front row to hold her lyrics sheets. And, some girls in the back who couldn't have been more than 13 or 14 years old joined her on stage to sing backup on "Supermodel" (they were pretty good, too!). It was a great show, as usual one which left my sides smarting for a while afterwards. (02/02, meth@smoe.org)

her show was superfun. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Recommended first album:

Jill Sobule (eponymous)

Recordings:


Things Here Are Different

Release info:

1990—MCA Records

Availability:

Discontinued, but not that hard to find used

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans, more of a lush pop sound than her later work.

Produced by:

Todd Rungren

Comments:

This is a great album. My favorite song is "Evian"—anyone know exactly what this is about (some kind of international meeting or treaty or something)? The title track is also great—well, the whole album is. i really enjoyed when it was released. it's light poppy stuff, but it's pretty good nonetheless. ;) (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

Her first album is very good, and featured the single/video "Too cool to fall in love" and the beautiful song, "Life goes on without you." if you like her, try to find her first album too. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

first album by her has some jazz feels to it. check out the song "too cool to fall in love" for what i mean. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

it's a mite different from the new one though. i re-listened to it last week on a whim and still liked it, but it's lusher and slicker in a different sense than the crisp, clean guitar sound on the later ones. (woj@smoe.org)


Jill Sobule

Release info:

1995—Lava/Atlantic

Availability:

Wide availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jill Sobule—vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, percussion, tambo

Guest artists:

Robin Eaton—vocals, guitar, bass
Richard Barone—vocals
Brad Jones—guitar, mandolin, flute, organ, pianorgan, piano, keyboards, bass, percussion, programming
Chris Carmichael—violin, cello
Jim Wizniewski—flute
Pat Bergeson—harmonica
Jerry Dale McFadden—accordion, knee slaps
Eric Moon—keyboards
Wayne Kramer—bass
Kenny Malone—drums, percussion
Susy Davis—background vocals

Produced by:

Brad Jones, Robin Eaton

Comments:

wow. and i thought i liked things here are different. it took me a while to really get into this album, but it's a gem. this is one album that definitely works mainly on a lyrical level for me, even though i've described myself as a "music person" :) not to say that the music isn't good, in fact it's excellent, but i doubt this album would've wormed its way so far into my heart based on the music alone. lovely mix of witty, funny and insightful. songs like "resistance song" and "trains" are my favourites. definitely also "i kissed a girl" :) witty, funny, cute.... :) (damon)

I was not impressed with Jill's stuff, even though I really like "I Kissed a Girl". The rest just seems like, well, fluff. Maybe she's better live. (Matt.Bittner)

suffice to say that there are some really great guitar pop songs here and the rest of the album, while not perfect pop gems, certainly are nice. "i kissed a girl" is essentially a gimmick song: it's got a great musical hook and a topic that attracts attention, but i certainly haven't cared to hear it more than a few times.... the tunes tend to be goofy/silly, but, surprisingly, don't grate too much since they're lots o'fun. one thumb. (woj@smoe.org)

The funny, catchy, pop songs are her signature, and well they should be. "Karen By Night" is terrific, while "I Kissed a Girl," "Margaret", and "Good Person Inside" are amongst the wittiest songwriting you'll find. But you shouldn't underestimate her ability to simply write beautiful music. "The Jig is Up" is extraordinarily gorgeous, and songs like "Houdini's Box" and "Resistance Song" proves she's more than a comedienne. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

I'd bought it after seeing the extremely-cute video for "I Kissed a Girl" on MTV. At any rate, I like it! A balance of silly songs and cool songs, nice rhythm and music...a good buy. (cinnamon@one.net)

I found "I Kissed a Girl" to be a fun, bouncy little song that covered the subject matter in a very light, tongue-in-cheek manner. (rishepp@magicnet.net)

This album is fun, but it's a mood album for me, because I have to be in the mood for it or else it doesn't do anything for me. It's uneven, but "I Kissed a Girl" is a classic, and I really enjoy "Trains" and "Good Person Inside." She has warmth and insight, with fun packaging. (JoAnn Whetsell)

A real winner. Sharp, witty, brash and bright, Cyndi Lauper meets Ani Difranco, it brought a smile to my face on a grey Monday morning, and I lent it to someone at work who'd had a dreadful weekend and it cheered her up, as well. This is someone I will definitely be following up on, and again I thank the ecto group for introducing me to her. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Happy Town

Release info:

1997—Atlantic

Availability:

Wide availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Jill Sobule—vocals, acoustic, acoustic baritone, electric & e-bow guitars, keyboards, vibraphone, bass, drums, percussion

Guest artists:

Mark Goldenberg—vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming
Brad Jones—acoustic guitar, piano, organ, keyboards, vibraphone, harmonium, bass, percussion
George Bradfute—electric guitar
Al Perkins—pedal steel guitar
Chris Carmichael—strings
Jim Hoke—flute, harmonica, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone
Edward Foote—hurdy gurdy
Ross Rice—piano, Wurlitzer, harmonium, bass, drums
Roger Moutenot—Moog synthesizer
Viktor Krauss, Byron House—upright bass
Mickey Grimm—drums, percussion
Maurico Lewak—drums
Steve Earle—guitar/electric guitar on "Love is Never Equal"

Produced by:

Brad Jones, Robin Eaton, Mark Goldenberg

Comments:

I got this as an impulse buy. Having enjoyed Things Here are Different and how Todd Rungren produced her, I was less than satisfied with this one. Even after many plays at first, it is one of those in the collection that isn't played very often. I still think Jill has lots more pretty darn good music in her, though, and I remain a big fan. (alundra@netos.com)

Not as consistent or witty as her eponymous album, but still has some great moments. I especially liked "Bitter," because Sobule has every right to be so with the lack of support from her record company and still she shuns it. And "When My Ship Comes In" is a riot. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

This CD doesn't break any musical boundaries, but just shamelessly offers a collection of perfectly crafted pop songs. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

she's SO underappreciated, and happy town was great—poppy tunes and melodies disguising her trademark lyrics imbued with the darker side of things.... (maier@joynet.com.au)


Pink Pearl

Release info:

2000—Beyond Music (PO Box 18524 Beverly Hills, CA 90209)—63985-78068-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Jill Sobule fans

Group members:

Jill Sobule—guitars, programming, moog, omnichord, really old casio, synth, electric piano, piano, drums, keyboard, vocals

Guest artists:

Brad—bass, mellotron, harmonium, organ, pump organ, piano, arp, moog, highstring, baritone, background vocals
Mickey Grimm—marimba, timpani, tubular bells, drums, tambourine, percussion, cajon
Molly Felder—background vocals
Chris Carmichael—violin, cello
Neil Rosengarden—recorder, drums, percussion, piano, trumpet
Michael Rhodes—bass
Mickey—drums, cajon
Charlie Chadwick—bass
Tom Hannum—pedal steel, dobro
Cast of Thousands—clapping, yelping on "Heroes"

Produced by:

Brad Jones, Robin Eaton, Jill Sobule, Yves Beauvais

Comments:

after one listen, it seems pretty good. it has production touches that are mildly annoying (a tendency toward the overly cute—the flute was a bit much). it has a couple real stand-out songs, though, instant mix tape consideration fodder: sobule's "heroes" is now my favorite name-checking song since amy rigby's sadly unrecorded "faulkner's maalox." (dmw@mwmw.com)

I'd add that "Heroes" is a great song. My other favorites are "Mexican Wrestler" and "Somewhere in New Mexico." On the first listen, there were songs that I wasn't sure I liked, or I guess I could say the album overall, because I found something a little odd in the music, I don't know how to describe it. But most of the songs don't have those odd (bad) quirks (although they do have Jill's trademark (good) quirkiness). And I guess it's just part of that getting-to-know-an-album phase, because on the second listen, it (whatever it is/was) was much less noticeable. Overall, I think it's a stronger, more even album than the self-titled album (I haven't heard the other 2) but perhaps doesn't have quite as many stand-out tracks. Still, very good, and if you like Jill's other stuff, you'll probably like this too. (JoAnn Whetsell)

it's great. very much a return to form for Jill, after what i thought was a disappointing last album Happy Town. not that Happy Town didn't have a few gems, but on the whole there wasn't as much going on there that drew me in.
     Pink Pearl on the other hand has quite a few gems in it, with the first three songs really drawing me in. included are a few songs she has done in concert like "Lucy at the Gym" (about that girl at the gym you ALWAYS see everytime you go to the gym).
     the album seems more bitter than her previous albums as well (apparently she didn't heed her own songs "Bitter" and her previously penned lyrics "i don't want to become bitter"). but more than just bitter, she sounds a bit broken. and not in a bad way, but in a more melancholic way, as if she realizes that things don't always turn out the way you want them too, but you survive anyway. it's really obvious in the later half of the album, with themes like lost love, unrequited love, and lack of faith running through.
     all in all though it's a good album, that i think i have to listen to more, and pay a little more attention to the lyrics more before i can make any particular judgements.
     i can say that anyone who liked her second album (the one with "I Kissed a Girl") will probably like this one. but it's not quite as quirky, but she keeps her same sense of storytelling, as well as her off-kilter sense of humor throughout. just with another added layer of pathos that wasn't really there before.
     it seems like much more personal album in retrospect. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I just got it, and I like it. It has her usual quirky lyrics, and the music is well done. I endorse it enthusiastically. (mapravat@prairienet.org)

This is definitely my favorite Jill Sobule album. I haven't been motivated to listen to her other CDs much (though I will always go see her play live), but this one is just so much fun. Her songs are so wry, and the music has a distinctly '60s bubblegum-pop feel that makes me think of old Monkees reruns. "Rainy Day Parade", "Heroes", and "Mary Kay" are the ones that stick in the head the longest, but the whole thing is a lot of fun. (meth@smoe.org)

Sobule's best album ever features more of her trademark mix of wittiness and pathos. Songs like "Somewhere in New Mexico", "Loveless Motel", and "Mexican Wrestler" showcase her ability to create characters that both move and amuse you, while cuts like "Mary Kay" and "Heroes" are just plain hilarious. Few songwriters achieve the sort of peculiar whimsy that Sobule does. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)


The Folk Years 2003–2003

Release info:

2004—SOR-02

Availability:

Available from Jill Sobule's site

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Something in between an odds 'n' sods collection and an album, and quite enjoyable. Four covers (I love her version of Destiny Child's "Survivor"), 3 songs that later appeared on Underdog Victorious, and 6 others in her trademark story-song style ("Sonny Liston" is a particular gem). There are no credits, but it seems a low-key acoustic affair, recorded with guitar, drums, piano, harmonica, trumpet, and background/duet vocals. Maybe a banjo, maybe some other instruments. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Underdog Victorious

Release info:

2004—Artemis Records—ATM-CD-51563

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jill Sobule—guitars, omnichord, casio, funny sounds, moog, sound effects, organ, drums

Guest artists:

Brad Jones—bass, piano, rhythm guitar, guitars, organ, electric piano
Mickey Grimm—drums, percussion
Neil Rosengarden—classical guitar, trumpet
Chris Carmichael—violins, violas
David Henry—cello
Robin Eaton—bass, harmonica, background vocals (5)
Bill Demain—electric piano, background vocals (9)
Al Perkins—pedal steel
Ross Rice—piano
Michael Rhodes—bass
Pat Buchannon—guitar
Marykate O'Neill—background vocals (5)
Will Kimbrough—slide guitar
Jim Hoke—flute, clarinet
Rob Burger—piano, casio
Dennis Diken—drums

Produced by:

Brad Jones and Robin Eaton, Roger Moutenout (track 13)

Comments:

Jill Sobule seems to get better with each album, and her latest release, Underdog Victorious, just may be her best yet. There's a great blend of folk, pop, and rock, upbeat and down, joy and cynicism, fun with heartache underneath. And it's deliciously retro, referencing The Beatles, Chicago, and other music of the '60s and '70s as much as Jill's earlier albums. This is most obvious on "Cinnamon Park," a remake of "Saturday in the Park" with new lyrics, but it's evident on other songs as well. She still has her trademark storytelling and wry humor, but there's a new maturity too, or a sense that she's grown up and it's not all she'd imagined it would be. On "Freshman" she sings "I live like a freshman/I still have a roommate" and later "You don't have a roommate/You own your own building/You have a flat-screen tv/You never followed your dreams/They're never what they seem."
     This sense of dreams and disappointment pervades Underdog Victorious from the fantasy of "Jetpack" to the reality of the settler-turned-prostitute in "Tel Aviv" and the not-as-great-as-it-seems life of "Joey." It culminates in "Thank Misery" in which she looks back on what might have been. The song ends "If I could go back in a time machine/I wouldn't buy a ticket, well maybe. But I'm so happy now I swear it's true/Thank misery for bringing me to you." (JoAnn Whetsell)

It's The Thought That Counts

Release info:

2005

Availability:

Out of print?

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Jill Sobule apparently doesn't do Christmas any differently than any other day of the year, at least not musically. So the songs on this EP tell stories that are darkly funny, irreverent, and sad. Grab a copy if you can find one. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Jill Sobule Sings "Prozak and the Platypus"

Release info:

2008—7 93573 49119

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jill Sobule—vocals, guitar, drums, piano, keys, banjo, sounds

Guest artists:

Dave Way—bass, guitar, drums, wine glass
Steve Gaboury—piano, keys
James Mastro—guitar
Lyle Workman—guitar
Felix Bloxom—drums, bass
Tony Camas—vocals
Dave Carpenter—bass
Bryan Head—drums

Produced by:

Dave Way; James Mastro (1, 9, 11)

Comments:

Sometimes I think of this soundtrack to the musical theatre piece, Prozak and the Platypus as Jill's "rock album," but there's actually plenty of material that is more traditionally her style of folk. As with any good soundtrack, you can enjoy it without having seen the play, though songs like "Empty Glass" mean more when you consider that the character Prozak's mother committed suicide a year earlier. The accompanying cartoon booklet sheds light on the storyline and includes song lyrics and dialogue that I assume comes from the show. And even though I still don't completely get the story, I enjoy the art. As I enjoy the album. (JoAnn Whetsell)

California Years

Release info:

2009—Pinko Records—PNK 0001

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jill Sobule—guitar, banjo, piano, acoustic guitar, electric "shredding," vocals

Guest artists:

Greg Leisz—pedal steel, dobro, mandolin, vocals
Mark Goldenberg—guitar, dumb-sounding fuzz guitar, slide, piano and other sounds, vocals
Dave Carpenter—bass, piano, vocals
Jim Keltner—drums
Geoff Pearlman & Bryan Head—vocals (1)
Benmont Tench—organ (2)
Don Was—bass (2)
Jamie Muhoberac—organ (4)
Robin Eaton—casio (5), vocals (4, 5)
John Doe—vocals (6)
Jo Pottinger—vocals (11)
Bill Demain—guitar (13)

Produced by:

Don Was; "Spiderman" produced by Jill Sobule and Bill Demain

Comments:

Another wonderful album. Catchy songs, humor, and the kinds of observations on life in California that could only come from Jill. Plus the very cute finale thanking donors by name for their funding. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Has an absolutely wonderful cover of Robert Earl Keen's dysfunctional family Christmas song called "Merry Christmas From the Family" on both versions of It's the Thought That Counts and a couple of compilations, most notably You Sleigh Me!. Her goofy satirical song "Supermodel" [from Jill Sobule] is on the Clueless soundtrack, while she provides a rousing live rendition of "I Will Survive" in the terrific In Their Own Words: Volume 2 compilation.

VIDEOS

Jill has released a DVD, Live in Pittsburgh.

COMPILATIONS

Compilation work includes:

  • "The Man in the Boat" on Spew (1995)
  • a live version of "I Kissed a Girl" on Women Live from Mountain Stage (1996)
  • "Where Do I Begin" on The Truth About Cats & Dogs soundtrack (1996)
  • "Truth Is You Lied" on Grace of My Heart (1996)
  • "The Secretive Life" on the Harriet the Spy soundtrack (1996)
  • "Stoned Soul Picnic" on Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro (1997)
  • "I Will Survive" on In Their Own Words: Volume 2 (1996) and Hard Rock Live (1997)
  • a live version of "Theme from Girl in the Affair" on Lounge Live from the Mountain Stage (1999)
  • "Just a Little Lovin'" on Forever Dusty (1999)
  • a live version of "Trains" on The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 1 (Live) (2006)
  • a live version of "The Jig Is Up" from The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 2 (Live) (2006)
  • "I've Got Your Number" from The Best Is Yet to Come—The Songs of Cy Coleman (2009)
The above tracks are not available elsewhere.

COLLABORATIONS Collaborations include:

  • "Another Thing Goin'" with The Brian Woodbury Songbook on their self-titled album (2000)
  • "Soldiers of Christ" with Skott Freedman on his album Judge a Book (2005)
  • Down By the River" with John Doe on Cinnamon Girl—Women Artists Cover Neil Young For Charity (2007)
  • "Some Things to Know About Monsters" and "The Legend of Lagunaloch Lake" with Eban Schletter on his album Eban Schletter's Witching Hour (2008)
  • "Hobo Soup" with Ethel on the Westbound soundtrack (2010)
Jill also collaborated on a musical theatre piece, Prozak and the Platypus, first staged in 2004. There is an associated album, Jill Sobule Sings "Prozak and the Platypus".


Thanks to Mark Miazga and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2015-05-25 00:12:47.
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