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Arts & Entertainment

Jill Sobule makes music with meaning, and an edge

Part balladeer, part social commentator, with songs that are simultaneously funny and sad, singer/songwriter Jill Sobule has a personal style that balances on a particularly narrow, particularly sharp, uniquely personal knife edge.

And, during her energetic performances – which bring the listener into her world with a startling immediacy, and move easily between lyricism and pointed political commentary — you never quite know what is going to surface. Think Edith Piaf meets Bob Dylan, with a soupcon of T.S. Eliot thrown in.

If you can’t quite imagine the result of that unlikely grouping, sit down and listen to Sobule sing. By the end, you will be thoroughly engaged, whether you agree or disagree with her distinctly unique perspective. Her throaty voice provides a counterpoint to the melodies. Her lyrics are distinctly 21st century American, often conversational, with frequent references to pop culture and current events that serve to anchor her vivid imagination in the here and now.

Fortunately for Brooklyn music lovers, Sobule will be bringing her compelling brand of musical entertainment to the borough on February 15, for a show at Union Hall, 702 Union Street at Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, beginning at 9 p.m. with doors opening at 8.

Those of us who have seen her perform in the past can hope for songs like “Modern Drugs” (beginning, “If Edgar Allan Poe had Prozac”) – which is not only a musing on the contemporary pharmacopoeia but also on the sources of creativity – or “Where is Bobbie Gentry?” — Sobule’s take on the ‘60s hit, “Ode to Billy Joe” — or the bittersweet “League of Failures,” but also for a little taste of where her imagination is leading her now.

“Every time I play, I try to make it different,” Sobule told this paper, confiding that she is planning to “Try some new songs. The last couple of years I’ve worked on a couple of different musicals, and I am going to work in some songs from them and on a couple of brand new songs I’ve just written. It will be a mix of everything. I’m always really loose. I never have a set list so I am going to wing it, which 90 percent of the time turns out really great. I try to feel out the crowd to see what should come next, whether they are into political things.”

Sobule, who is originally from Denver, Colorado, said the upcoming show would be a bit of a “homecoming” for her. Before moving to California about five years ago, she lived in Brooklyn, variously in Park Slope and Williamsburg, and she is thrilled to be sharing the stage with “One of my favorite bands that I used to go to see all the time in New York, the Sex Mob. It’s so wonderful to play with them,” she enthused. “It should be a spectacular show musically.”

Coming to New York originally was a bit of an awakening for Sobule. “When I left Denver, I thought I was the queen pop star of Denver. Then I got to New York, and holy moley. I was going to go play clubs but at first I was too frightened. I worked at Barney’s, selling shoes, and at all sorts of restaurants, but I persevered.”

Among Sobule’s credits are numerous albums as well as “The Jill & Julia Show,” with actress Julia Sweeney.

Tickets are $15. For further information on the show, or to purchase tickets, go to

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