HARLAN T. BOBO: I’m Your Man [Goner]

Is it selfish to wish misery upon Harlan T. Bobo? Because clearly, that’s when the Memphis troubadour’s best music gets made. Brandishing a creaky acoustic guitar and a broken baritone on his 2005 debut Too Much Love, Bobo turned his own hellish agony into high art. The intoxicating country-noir album lamented a lost love—namely, ex-wife Yvonne—with a weary-eyed vibe that evoked Joe Cocker and Nick Cave shooting the shit at midnight over tumblers and weed. Now Bobo is back with this similarly themed follow-up, and like the embattled relationships that still populate his songs, it’s hot and heavy at the beginning and end while souring somewhat in the middle. I’m Your Man boasts the same blend of unhinged, up-tempo rockers and genuinely affecting ballads. But with Bobo seeming more third-party documentarian than dejected protagonist, it’s sad to say the stakes here don’t feel as high. (The bland trio of “Tick Tock,” “Pragmatic Woman” and “So Bad,” a bloated midsection of colorless waltzes, doesn’t help.) I’m Your Man regains its footing before the finish, though. “One Of These Days,” a half-lovely/half-spooky late bloomer, reverts to old, resentful ways; “You’re gonna pay for killing our romance,” Bobo groans slowly. It’s good news for people who love bad news for Bobo. [www.goner-records.com]

—Noah Bonaparte Pais