Everything about Lonesome Bob–Robert Chaney until a nickname overthrew his real name–is writ large. He’s a bulky man with a room-filling, lonesome bear of a voice. His songs are huge; five of the tunes on this sophomore release are over five minutes long. And in those songs, his emotions are big, like on the at-loose-ends chorus of “Where Are You Tonight?” and on the title track, which finds him leading guest Amy Rigby through a haunted, “Jungleland” closing. Because of his conversational songwriting and vocal style, as well as some personal tragedies (the CD tray houses a picture of his son who died in ’98 at 18) that clearly inform his work, it’s tempting to make the leap and consider Things Change a completely autobiographical album. For sure, I’d guess you’re getting a whole lot of Lonesome Bob in the aforementioned “Where Are You Tonight?” and the equally gut-and heart-wrenching “Dreaming the Lie.” But I’d also guess that he’d like nothing more than to kick the ass of the quitter from “Weight of the World,” one of several songs blessed with the voice of longtime vocalizing partner Allison Moorer.
Working with some of the best of Nashville’s ground-level scene (Moorer, Tim Carroll, Steve Allen, Rick Schell and Dave Jacques, to name just a few), Lonesome Bob drives his songs with edgy roots rock and hard honky-tonk. He also knows his way around country soul, as revealed on the striking “In the Time I Have Left,” and later underscored by a ghost track reading of Clarence Carter’s “Patches.” If the arrangements occasionally stray toward run-of-the-mill, that’s OK. Lonesome Bob’s extra-large personality is anything but generic, and his presence makes every cut worthwhile. Even–maybe especially–the rough-and-tumble instrumental “2 Drinks on an Empty Stomach.”