Kansas City's Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys belong to that most unfortunate of genres: neotraditional alternative country. Though they make their home on Bloodshot Records, they manage to take twang far more seriously -- with a lightness of touch and a growing musical dexterity -- without taking themselves that way. Their latest effort, Your Favorite Fool, sounds like the kind of record BR5-49 would make, had they a songwriter as consistently smart and inventive as Hobart and a producer like Peter Anderson. (Love the sound of Dwight Yoakam's and the Mavericks' albums? Thank Anderson.) Hobart has always specialized in songs of fear and self-loathing, and he's still a bit preoccupied with the tears falling in his beer, but his band has never swung and shuffled so smoothly, and his voice has ripened a bit with the years. Forget their punk-rock past, and you'd think they'd been hitting the honky-tonks all their lives.
Hobart and Misery boys won't make you forget Ernest Tubb and the Troubadours or Merle Haggard and the Strangers -- they'll remind you of just what honky-tonk music, in the end, is all about: dancing, drinking and dreaming as if there's no tomorrow.