Jill Sobule's "Dottie's Charms" a novel in song form. Kind of.
Concept albums seem to be all the rage lately, and singer-songwriter Jill Sobule may have just crafted the most intriguing concept of them all.
Several years ago, Sobule was given a vintage charm bracelet by a friend who found it on eBay. The bracelet contained a rather diverse and peculiar collection of pewter charms and one vague link to its original owner, apparently named Dorothy. Failed attempts to track down the mysterious Dorothy followed, leaving Sobule to speculate herself what was the origin of each of the bracelet's charms, which include an office chair, a jet plane, the Statue of Liberty, a wedding ring and a stirrup. Who was this lady? What is the story behind each of the (presumably) carefully chosen charms? Answering such questions is the basis of Sobule's latest album, "Dottie's Charms," released May 6.
But instead of crafting this woman's story herself, Sobule turned to her literary friends and favorites, calling on writers to create Dorothy's life as they saw it. Each writer selected one charm and wrote its lyrics, with Sobule taking those lyrics, adding music, and voila – a collection of songs emerged that paints a portrait of a lovelorn and wandering soul. Despite coming from a diverse group of voices, the final product is a cohesive and immensely entertaining journey through the life of an imagined and fully realized character.
A witty and prolific lyricist herself, some folks have said they miss Sobule's own words on this project. However, I don't see it as a departure from style, but rather an intriguing excursion that is still undeniably a Jill Sobule album. [You may remember Sobule from her biggest hits, “Supermodel” and “I Kissed a Girl” (no connection to the Katy Perry song), back in the ’90s. She’s churned out solid albums ever since, even if she hasn’t landed atop the charts in a while.]
A limited-edition vinyl version of "Dottie's Charms" was released on Record Store Day in April, and of course my local shop, Sullivan's Records (shout out!), received a whopping zero copies! Thankfully, just as it led Dottie's charms to Jill Sobule, eBay provided me with a copy of this cool mash-up of music and literature. (Speaking of mash-ups, whaddya think of the one of Jill and me above? Oh, the things you can do with Pic Stitch!)
Contributing writers include James Marcus, Vendela Vida, Jonathan Lethem, David Hajdu, Sara Marcus, Luc Sante, Mary Jo Salter, Nina Mehta, Sam Lipsyte and Rick Moody.