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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 hits."

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

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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