BUOYANT SOBULE - Brooklyn Paper


Staying afloat: Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule's latest CD, "I Never Learned to Swim," recalls best of 10 years of recording songs about real life.
Marc Joseph

Although she feels no particular loss from
the Dodgers’ move to LA, Jill Sobule loves living in Brooklyn.
This Williamsburg resident, who just released her new CD, "I
Never Learned to Swim: Jill Sobule 1990-2000," on the Beyond
Music Label, loves living in her "little neighborhood in
the big city."

"I Never Learned to Swim" is
a compilation of 13 of the quirky folk singer’s best songs since
her first album was released in 1990. It also includes two new
tracks, "Big Shoes" and "Smoke Dreams." If
you haven’t bought any of Sobule’s previous five albums, this
is your chance to catch up on some of the most innovative music
of the last decade.

The album includes Sobule’s most popular
song, "I kissed a girl," which she called her "K-Tel
moment," in a telephone interview with GO Brooklyn Wednesday.
It is not, however, a traditional "greatest hits" collection
since, as Sobule puts it, "I don’t really have a lot of

She also lamented that the process of selecting
the songs for the compilation was "complete hell" and
she still wonders whether she made the right decisions.

The compilation includes many of the songs
that expose her as a voyeur; songs about the people with whom
she’s come into contact along the way. "Karen By Night"
is about the evening she followed her buttoned-up boss (at a
shoe store) to a biker bar, where, dressed in leather, Karen
grabbed "a young blonde buck" by the collar, "kissed
him hard on the mouth and slapped him on the cheek." She
wrote "Margaret" about her Catholic school classmate
who became a porn star, and "Claire" is about her elderly
neighbor who claims to have had an affair with "Eleanor"
(Roosevelt, we are left to assume).

Sobule, a Colorado native, has been riding
the music business roller coaster for most of the last 10 years.
She was a celebrated new artist in 1990 when her first record,
produced by the legendary Todd Rundgren, was released by MCA.

After she was dropped by MCA, she signed
a recording contract with Atlantic Records, where she scored
her biggest success with "I kissed a girl" in 1995,
which went to "about 20" on the Billboard charts.

"It was an enjoyable experience,"
Sobule says of her successful chart run, "but I think if
it happened again now, I would be able to enjoy it more."

Unfortunately, her relationship with Atlantic
soured quickly. Knowing she was about to be dropped from her
second major label, she wrote "Bitter," a song that
appears on the compilation and speaks to her general bitterness
about the music business. "I could sneer, I could glare/Say
that life is so unfair/And the one who made it, made it/’Cuz
her breasts were really big."

Sobule doesn’t tell us who the big-breasted
success is, but there’s been speculation that it was a singer-songwriter
who has also written a book of poetry. She also says that she
has let go of any bitterness and has actually reached a point
in her life where she’s more at ease about her career than ever.
"I have a good bad-attitude," she says.

For those of you who have not been introduced
to the music of Jill Sobule, do yourself a favor and check out
"I Never Learned to Swim." Also, Sobule has not forgotten
you longtime fans. The two new songs on the CD fit nicely into
the Sobule catalog.

"Big Shoes" is a true story about
how Sobule’s mother made her wear orthopedic shoes until she
was in the eighth grade. "Smoke Dreams" has an old-time
feel to it; she even recorded the old scratchy LP sounds. Sobule
says that she was listening to a lot of Peggy Lee when she was
recording the song.

At this time the roller coaster is headed
uphill for Sobule. The new CD is available in all major record
stores and she is currently on tour with Lloyd Cole, where she
not only opens all of the shows with a solo acoustic set, but
she is also the lead guitarist in Lloyd’s band, The Negatives.

"I love just being a part of a band,"
says Sobule.

You can catch Sobule’s show on May 3 at
The Knitting Factory [74 Leonard St., (212) 219-3006] in Manhattan.
And though like the Dodgers, Jill Sobule may leave Brooklyn,
you can all rest assured that she’s going to come back to Williamsburg.

Adam Stengel is a singer-songwriter
who has produced the album "Train of Thought." He is
also a Manhattan-based music attorney.


Jill Sobule’s latest album "I Never
Learned to Swim: Jill Sobule 1990-2000," (Beyond Music Label,
2001) is available in record stores everywhere. Sobule will perform
on May 3 at The Knitting Factory [74 Leonard St., (212) 219-3006]
in Manhattan. For more information go to www.KnittingFactory.com.

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