Just as Harlan T. Bobo's 2006 album Too Much Love concerned itself with a problematic romantic relationship, and the 2007 follow-up I'm Your Man was written and recorded in the wake of its break-up, Bobo's third full-length, Sucker, finds our hero from Memphis picking up the pieces and looking for new love. (The liner notes mention that the songs were largely written "while courting an adventurous woman" in several countries, adding "the courtship was a success," good news for the artist and his fans.) The opening track, "Sweet Life," is a lovely, bittersweet tune (complete with strings) that celebrates the small triumphs of life even as one struggles with the wounds of the past, and the closer, "Mlle. Chatte," is a sweet French-language homage to a woman and her cat, both of which he clearly likes. In between, Sucker covers a lot of emotional territory -- Bobo sings "This could be my lucky day" with fervent belief on "Oh Boy" as he ponders not having to think about his ex anymore, and the tongue-in-cheek "Perfect Day" imagines a time in which he and his latest lover "get to be phantoms from our deepest dreams." But the soulful "Hamster in a Cage" suggests how steep the uphill climb to peace of mind can be, and "Bad Boyfriends" is a passionate rant against women who date men who are wrong for them. Whatever Bobo has to say about love, he says it with intelligence, passion, and flashes of wit, and he's as strong a singer as he is a lyricist, able to wail the blues, croon country-style, or deliver smoky adult pop with equal skill and impact. The musicians who accompany Bobo on these sessions are capable of handling subtle acoustic arrangements or full-on blazing roots rock, and they sound smart and capable at any speed, and this album is a reminder that eclecticism can be a virtue in the right hands. And the production and engineering by Doug Easley is effective and unobtrusive. There aren't many folks fusing passion and literate songcraft with the same emotional resonance as Harlan T. Bobo, so don't let the funny name put you off -- Sucker is smart and affecting music about love and living that proves they still know a lot about heart and soul down in Memphis.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming