Greg Humphreys
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Greg Humphreys

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"HARP Magazine CD Review"

Enlightened Soul

North Carolina’s finest rock and soul quartet, Hobex, is capable of sending listeners on an instantaneous sonic grail quest—whether experienced live or digital. Sadly, Hobex’ folksy brilliance has also rendered it the sort of act consistently praised by critics while mysteriously missing the mass ear. Enlightened Soul may not change this trend, since it’s a denser, more opaque recording than previous efforts; no southern soul shakers in the vein of 2000’s “Ain’t Pushin’ Baby” or 2002’s “Maybe It’s Me” appear. This is a sultry, deep suite fit for eternal Sundays and shadow spaces, requiring close focus. Yet one can ardently hope that 2007 is Hobex’ transcendent year: the title track’s thorny twang and the achingly exquisite swing of “I’m Not Ashamed” deserve to be heard and celebrated widely. Dixie’s a foreign country, sure, but thanks to Greg Humphreys’ floating axe reconstruction abetted by Russ Betenbaugh’s organ, not one that’s past darkness.

By Kandia Crazy Horse
First printed in Mar/Apr 2007 - Kandia Crazy Horse

"HONEST TUNE Magazine feature"

Hobex: Free the Music by Setting the Trend
Written by Dennis Cook
"Mainstream radio in the '60s and '70s put rock next to blues next to soul, and that was popular music. Today, it's sub groups to the nth degree," says Greg Humphreys, the hugely gifted vocalist-guitarist-songwriter behind sweet soul movers Hobex. "I grew up listening to radio like that, and honestly I think most people's music collections are still like that. Most people don't listen to just jam bands or R&B or heavy metal. Most people's tastes span a large swath of genres."

Moving into their 10th year, Hobex epitomize the vintage genre fluidity Humphreys describes.

While their early work stepped out on the same good foot that propelled Muscle Shoals and James Brown, they quickly evolved into a group that injected juicy spirit into any format they tried their hand at. After a four-year recording hiatus, Hobex returns with Enlightened Soul, a 10-track corker that draws from summer-y pop, Philly soul, the world-weary wisdom of Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers, and even '70s California country rock.

"I resent the idea that a band has to be summed up in one or two words," comments Humphreys. "I've always felt like we don't fit any particular mold. We fit a lot of different formats loosely but none are a great fit because we try to be original and unique. That should work in our favor but it doesn't because everything is so formatted and genre-fied today. If you're not playing to a certain audience it's harder to be heard."

Hobex is a descendent of groups like Rare Earth, Eric Burdon and War, and Traci Nelson and Mother Earth — loose, life-loving aggregates that revealed rock's hips and threw grit into soul's smoothness. Everything is played from the heart, which unifies the genre hopping. Like their predecessors, Hobex actively avoids imitation while allowing themselves to be inspired by anything.

"A lot of times I meet up with a little resentment from purists. I'm definitely not a purist," laughs Humphreys. "Hobex is a made-up word, shorthand for a phrase that a bunch of my buddies back in Chapel Hill used to use. It started out as 'I'm all over it like a hobo on a biscuit.' That evolved into 'I'm all over it hobex style.' So, hobex became this code word amongst this group of musicians to infer some enthusiasm or attitude."

"When we started, I'd been in fairly successful alternative rock band Dillon Fence for almost 10 years. When I started a band that was more funk and soul oriented people thought I was nuts but you look now and there's a whole scene inspired by this music that's waiting to bubble over," observes Humphreys.

Tracks like "Get In Your Way" from 2000's Wisteria or the more recent "Man And A Woman" carry serious echoes of the Staple Singers and Temptations, rare reminders that soul music didn't always mean the homogenized mass produced "urban contemporary" sound of today.

Humphreys says, "Detroit-era Motown is definitely a big influence on me – Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and the Funk Brothers. There's something to be said for putting great songs together with a great band. It wasn't everyone with their hand in the pie telling the band what they should be doing."

Though the band has sometimes had as many as eight players including horns and percussion, these days they're a lean, intuitive quartet. Besides Humphreys, there's Andy Ware (bass), Russ Betenbaugh (keyboards), and Dustin Clifford (drums). Not a note is wasted, and the overall vibe is relaxed confidence, the feel of real pros doing something they love, filling the crevices of each tune with gentle nuances that drift to the surface on repeat spins."

There's so much you can do with a musical group that's also a vocal group. You can create a big sound with just four guys. Just think of what the Beatles did," says Humphreys. "We have consistency now, so over time the arrangements grow and change. We have the freedom to go in different directions and not worry that someone doesn't know the material. Everyone is a great player so with a four-piece there's more room for us to get our ya-yas out. I get to play a lot more guitar without a horn section!"

It's frequently Humphreys' artfully writhing licks that ensnare your ear, tugging you down into their grooves. Humphreys remarks, "A lot of my lead playing is blues guys. I like the Ice Man, Albert Collins. I love Jimi Hendrix, of course. The Stax-Volt thing Steve Cropper did is clearly an influence. I'm an omnivore. I like it all."

One of Enlightened Soul's standouts is "Natural Child," a raunchy 8-minute six-string workout. "It's inspired by my friends the North Mississippi Allstars and Jimbo Mathus," explains Humphreys. "I did some touring backing up Jimbo and have since written a few songs that have that monolithic groove where it starts out on the one and stays on the one. It's like driving down an empty road!"

"I think the big guit - Dennis Cook


U Ready, Man?
View Hobex's page on Rhapsody
Here's a triple threat for ya: spicy soul-funk-jazz that'll put taste buds on your eardrums. Hobex are a constantly-in-flux soul outfit outta North Carolina led by an artistic Svengali named Greg Humphreys. What they've laid down here is an hour of untainted music-from-the-heart that owes as much to improvisation and intuition as it does to technique and calculation, which is to say it has soul, baby. Glide away on the sweet keys, oozing horns and downtrodden vox of "Maybe It's Me." Dig the up-tempo jazz-funk and extended instrumental breaks of "Baby's Gone Away." Get all the way down with the sassy exhortations of April Howell on the (live) country-funk of "Soul Food." The playing is tight but never uptight and the song set is sweeeeeet. You might not find U Ready, Man? sitting atop the charts but that just proves yet again that great music and smart business don't always manage to rendezvous in the same restaurant. One of the very best potential sleeper albums of 2002.
(October 22, 2002)



Enlightened Soul
by Matthew Fiander

It may not seem this way upon first listen, but North Carolina’s Hobex is walking a dangerous line with their sixth album, Enlightened Soul. First off, they are a bunch of white guys from the South playing pretty tradition soul music. As if that didn’t put them out on enough of a limb, in their efforts they run the risk of getting aligned with acts like Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson—an association that can really ruin your cred.

What makes this association so easy is that Hobex can flat out play. They are a tight outfit for sure, whether offering up classic soul sounds on the opening track “Free the Music”, or channeling ‘70s country rock on “Behind the Door”. And, say what you will about Dave Matthews and his ilk, they are good at what they do. They play smooth, clean music as technically proficient as any other band out there.

Where those bands lose credit is in the sincerity department; their music-by-the-numbers sounds too flat to be felt. Hobex, on the other hand, are completely earnest in their efforts, which goes a long way in pumping life into their new album, Enlightened Soul. “Free the Music” kicks the album off with a command ("Only you set free the music"). Like in great blues songs, the repetition of the line turns poignantly from command to plea, so that by the end you can feel singer/songwriter Greg Humphreys really pining for music we can all feel deep in our bones. Other straight soul tracks, like “You Set Me Free” and “Push It Off That Hill”, are equally effective in getting your booty to shake while you feel Humphreys reaching out, connecting with the listener. Unlike Mr. Matthews, Humphreys doesn’t fall back on vague, false-sounding songs about “soulful” interludes. There is no sign of a band trying to co-opt a style or the soul tradition—a tradition taken quite seriously in Hobex’s neck of the woods. Instead they pay homage to the genre while still trying to live in it and make it their own.

There are a few curves thrown in to keep the album fresh as you go. The ‘70s rock of “Behind the Door” sets us up for the title track, an all-out stomp-the-porch country tune. “Hold Tight” offers a crunchy, rolling guitar riff not seem much on the rest of the album. And the closer, “Natural Child”, channels the energy of the Allman Brothers, chugging along for eight minutes of southern-tinged rock.

The album does, unfortunately, have its flaws. Where the lyrical repetition on “Free the Music” works, in other places it falls flat. The second track has Humphreys saying “don’t waste your time falling in love”, which rests a little too vaguely on older, better versions of the cautionary love song to be effective. The lyrics on the whole are simple, and Hobex works best when the words don’t draw too much attention to themselves. The bluesy shuffle of “I’m Not Ashamed” is a nice change of pace early on in the record, but the lyrics—save the oft-sung title—are so sleepy and drawn out they drag the music down with them. The Allman-style “Natural Child” is a double edged sword since, like the Allmans, the song has some great guitar riffs but goes on for far too long, and an off-kilter guitar solo sounds out of place on such a straight-forward record and puts a wrench in the song.

With Enlightened Soul, Hobex has crafted a solid, fun soul album with sincerity to spare. If there is any justice, these guys will rise up the pecking order and take some of the college-boy-jam-band crowd away from imposters like DMB and Jack Johnson. Lucky for them, I don’t think Hobex is too worried about trying to climb that ladder, happy instead to put their effort into music we can actually feel. In that, they have found some success. The lyrics aren’t exactly quotable, and it doesn’t all work as much as Humphreys and co. would probably like, but you might be dancing too much to notice.

— 20 February 2007 - Matthew Fiander


Hobex — Enlightened Soul

North Carolina’s Hobex is marking its tenth anniversary as a band with the release of its sixth album, Enlightened Soul. The band has performed over 1,000 shows since its inception and played on the same bills as North Mississippi Allstars, Al Kooper, Bernie Worrell, George Porter and Fred Wesley. The band’s Southern-styled soul has served them well over the years, and this latest release is no exception.
The first thing that the listener will notice about this CD is that it is sparkling. Grooves this clean haven’t been laid down since George Benson’s heyday. Bandleader Greg Humphreys has pulled off the hat trick of making an album that has the big, crisp sound of a Steely Dan record with the groove and funk of The Meters or James Brown’s best bands of the 1960s and 1970s. While the sound is made up of classic ingredients, when pulled out of the oven you have a stridently modern collection of music that is as cutting edge as anything out there today.
Album opener “Free The Music” pretty much lays the groundwork for what follows: funk, groove and finesse. The song features a fine Southern-soul vocal from Humphreys and a rubbery backline from bassist Andy Ware and keysman Russ Betenbaugh. The lyrics seem to be a tribute to listeners, stating the case that only they can truly free the music from the musicians. Another standout track is the slow burning “I’m Not Ashamed,” which features another fantastic vocal performance from Humphreys and fine ensemble playing from the band, most notably drummer Dustin Clifford, who knows how to play for the song and not for himself. Clifford is given ample room to get his funk fix on belly-rubbing numbers like “You Set Me Free” and “Push It Off That Hill.” Closing number “Natural Child” gives Humphreys a chance to show that his guitar chops are as strong as his vocals. (Phrex Records)

-Jon Dawson - Jon Dawson


The Other Soulsville
Lewis Taylor & Hobex dip into the white chocolate well
Published 01.31.07
By Kandia Crazy Horse

Courtesy hacktone records

This is my love letter to Lewis Taylor, yes -- a necessary parting shot on the eve of Black History Month. It's also a prime opportunity to give his Stateside counterpart -- N. Cack's own great soul brer Greg Humphreys -- some dap, too.
Per Nas: Hip-Hop is dead. And with the passing of Soul Brother #1, James Brown, funk, soul and rock & roll mos def had the final nails put in their respective acetate coffins. Perhaps it's just as well, then, that the music world can no longer conserve Lewis Taylor -- but Soulsville will always pine for him, his exquisite melodies and guitar freakouts.
No one had more comebacks than JB, but the equally misunderstood Taylor, the greatest British singer-songwriter to emerge in the past 15 years, actually retired last summer (sans cape). Mercifully, Hacktone has seen fit to now re-release his sonic Grail, The Lost Album. Transatlantic music culture also lost UK Blak singer Lynden David Hall not long ago; and Taylor's remaining great, underrated rival Seal seems more content to drown in the milk of domestic bliss than exercise his Afrofuturistic vision. Thus Taylor once looked like we rare groovers' Great White Chocolate Hope. Before his retirement, Taylor, a North London Jew, sho' put a hella lot of black in the Union Jack.
And, believe it or not (especially down here in de land o' cotton and Soulsville), bluenote history and post-soul culture are much the richer for it. Taylor's contributions may be proven legion in time; certainly, a close listen to the sublime Lewis II, the album which replaced TLA at market, makes the unassailable case for Taylor's grace. Yet his legend is now permanently cemented with the reissue of The Lost Album.
Although Taylor always seemed to proceed with Marvin Gaye and Brian Wilson perched cheekily on his shoulders, The Lost Album hews closer to the peculiarly Californian high lonesome of the latter. Of course, the dizzying, deep introspection that characterized Gaye's work in the wake of Motown's LA move also shadows this recording -- as does the starry "wooden music" of erstwhile Laurel Canyon denizens like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. From the chrome and fading sunset of its album art, it's clear that TLA conjures 1960s psych, early '70s "easy rock" and prog, yet compared to Lewis II's raw, massed soul and 2005's Stoned -- " ... sounds like a Curtis Mayfield record run through a rainbow," according to Rolling Stone -- Taylor's masterpiece and parting gift is an airier, more aloof recording. While centered on interiors, tracks like "Hide Your Heart Away" have their heartache and sorrow offset by the sunny ebullience of the arrangements and Strip aesthetic. TLA is definitely meant for cruising the Pacific Coast Highway, high on good herb and the good life conjured by the privileged at the end point of Manifest Destiny (that is, unless you're the last of your race, like Taylor ... and I).
That's not to say that these meticulously-crafted, twangy acoustic suites are devoid of soul, just filtered through a gloomy haze. The Lost Album is rather the sonic equivalent of an Annie Leibovitz photo that haunts me: Sly Stone riding down the PCH circa '75 in his rag-top white Cadillac. Ole Sly could've easily been blasting Taylor's "The Leader of the Band" or "See My Way," a cut suffused with enough angsty sexuality and pathos to fit his sonic frame of mind during that era.
If you ever dreamt of California as site of escape -- despite its' present dystopian realities, immigration wars and refashioning of workaday fascism, then The Lost Album's a boon for you. Fittingly, in this time of constructing walls to police brown bodies, it also sketches the psychology of borderlands and worships at the altar of the Golden Negress the state was named for. Whilst praising America's resurrection this season, don't forget a lil' Lewis love, too. I won't, although California broke my heart.
Hobex, meanwhile, has returned with Enlightened Soul (Phrex) -- just what Taylor's long struggled in vain to hip his audiences to. Hobex' bandleader and chief architect Greg Humphreys locates his utopia closer to home than Taylor did from rainy London, but he also bravely looks inward. Although more enigmatic than past releases, this is a great, mature album from the South's finest quartet, a triumph of rock & soul illumination that soars by turns playful and poignant. Like Taylor's work, it's merciful that Hobex releases indie for on a major Enlightened Soul would be lost, too, labeled "difficult" -- especially since it lacks the "organic techno" Taylor perfected late in his career and they cannot be contained by genre.
Hobex recordings also elicit muso and crit reverence, but the band's version of Dirty South has not been vetted by the lowrider elite. The organ-buoyed music's unvarnished, verna - Kandia Crazy Horse


Album of the Week

Published: November 12, 1999
HOBEX: ''Back in the '90s'' (Slash/London Records). Few listeners will first hear Hobex the way this critic did: in an enjoyably squalid bar in Columbia, S.C., in 1996, on the rowdy college circuit below the Mason-Dixon line. Playing to drunken fraternity boys, the Chapel Hill-based trio of alternative-pop veterans delivered oven-fried soul far better than it should have been. Since that night I've wondered whether a band so fine in its context could go beyond it.

Luckily, Hobex's major-label debut captures the delight of that happenstance discovery. It's an easy album, suiting a group whose name is used around Raleigh to mean ''enjoying the moment.'' Not worrying about the risks of being a white guy playing rhythm-and-blues, the singer, guitarist and songwriter Greg Humphreys succeeds by letting pleasure steer his sensibilities.

Andy Ware on bass and Steve Hill on drums match the casual chops of Mr. Humphreys, sliding through songs that honor Al Green and Alex Chilton. Horns and backup singers thicken the gravy. Mr. Humphreys can fly solo, too, as he proves on ''It Pains Me,'' a blues that surely has them slow dancing in dives from here to Gainesville, and perhaps in New York, too. ANN POWERS


"LA WEEKLY CD review"

Back in the ’90s (WEA/Sire)

Another group of Caucasians inspired by “soul, R&B and funk” is not exactly what the world needs. Yet while it’s true that North Carolina’s Hobex has tapped the heart of ’70s Memphis soul, it has done so with a sense of adventure rather than mimicry or mere reverence. Writing and arranging songs like he’s the godchild of Al Green and Alex Chilton, singer-songwriter/guitarist Greg Humphrey (who, along with Hobex bassist Andy Ware, headed up the tuneful, jangly Dillon Fence) has happened on a sound that, from the first note, crackles with freshness and inspiration.

“Groove, Baby” takes off with a loping groove, subtle Hammond textures and a choppy rhythm guitar, but it’s Humphrey’s rich melody lines and cooing falsetto that turn the trick. On the solo, he translates that sense of melody directly to his clean, reverbless guitar style. “The Love That’s Inside” takes its cues from the Isley Brothers’ classic “Who’s That Lady” as well as the forgotten Stories hit “Brother Louie.” The feel-good groove of “Windows” (featured in the movie Rounders) is a natural drivin’-in-your-car single, and when they launch into exuberant ’70s-rock twin leads, you’ll forget it’s been done a hundred times before.

In short, Humphrey uses all the old tricks like a pro: killer horn charts throughout, a funky vocal EQ and wah-wah guitar on “I Was Wrong,” a mutated “Suzy Q” riff on the swampy “My Moonshine” and rich, sophisticated harmonies on “Solaar.” Most musicians quickly figure out how to “borrow” from the masters, but only a few are talented enough to listen and learn a thing or two. (Michael Lipton) - Michael Lipton




2007 Enlightened Soul HOBEX Phrex
2007 Live at the Pourhouse DVD HOBEX Phrex
2004 Best + Dillon Fence Morisen
2002 U Ready Man? HOBEX Tone-cool / Artemis
2001 Live at the Cat's Cradle Dillon Fence Phrex
2000 Wisteria HOBEX Phrex
1999 Back in the '90s re-release HOBEX Slash / London
1998 Back in the '90s HOBEX Phrex
1996 Payback [EP] HOBEX Phrex
1994 Living Room Scene Dillon Fence Mammoth / Atlantic
1993 Any Other Way Dillon Fence Mammoth
1993 Outside In Dillon Fence Mammoth
1992 Daylight Dillon Fence Mammoth
1992 Rosemary Dillon Fence Mammoth
1991 Christmas Dillon Fence Mammoth
1989 Dillon Fence Dillon Fence NOCAR


2007 Any Given Morning Original Soundtrack HOBEX Windows
2006 Songs for Sixty Five Roses Various Artists Greg Humphreys Bent Out of Shape
2003 The Story of Tone Cool, Vol. 1 Various Artists HOBEX Playin' Games
2002 The Sweet Sounds of Bonnaroo Vol. 2 Various Artists HOBEX Playin' Games
2001 Handpicked, Vol. 1 Various Artists HOBEX Ain't Pushin'
2000 A Clockwork Maury Original Soundtrack HOBEX Am I Losing My Mind
1999 Rounders Original Soundtrack HOBEX Windows
1998 Gunshy Original Soundtrack HOBEX Go Slow
1998 The Garden Place Various Artists HOBEX Let Me Live
1998 Local Honey Various Artists HOBEX Back in the 90s
1998 Local Honey Various Artists Greg Humphreys Blue Eyes
1998 Rare and Well Done Various Artists Dillon Fence Walking Along the Haw
1996 Immortal Original Soundtrack Dillon Fence Coffee Cup (live)
1994 Children of the Sun Original Soundtrack Dillon Fence Dreaming
1994 You Sleigh Me / Atlantic Records Various Artists Dillon Fence Christmas
1993 Cocktails at Five: Mammoth Vol. 1 Various Artists Dillon Fence Black Eyed Susan
1993 Cocktails at Five: Mammoth Vol. 2 Various Artists Dillon Fence Daylight
1990 FrequeNCy Sampler of NC Sounds Various Artists Dillon Fence Frances


2007 Ex Tempore Johnny Irion vocals, engineering / production
2007 Poolhalls and Pantyhose Hank Sinatra pedal steel guitar
2007 Into Your Sleeping Heart Regina Hexaphone pedal steel guitar
2007 Demos Fontana engineering / production / mixing
2006 Demos Katharine Whalen guitar, vocals, engineering / production / mixing
2006 Demos Sweet By And By engineering / production / mixing
2006 Why You Knocking (single) Red Collar engineering / production / mixing
2006 Songs For Sixty Five Roses Katharine Whalen guitar, engineering / production / mixing
2006 Songs For Sixty Five Roses Portastatic vocals
2006 Demos Johnny Irion and Sara Lee Guthrie guitar, vocals, engineering / production / mixing
2005 House of Daydreams Moonshine Babies guitar, vocals, engineering / production / mixing
2005 Firecracker Jazz Band Firecracker Jazz Band engineering / production / mixing
2005 Thank You, Mark Danielle Howle pedal steel guitar, vocals
2005 Demos Hank Sinatra pedal steel guitar, engineering / production / mixing
2004 Dare You to Do It Again Jessie Mae Hemphill & Friends lap steel guitar
2003 Demos Sam Fisher guitar, engineering / production / mixing
2003 I'm Staying Out Caitlin Cary vocals
2003 Knockdown in Nashville James Mathus & His Knockdown Society guitar, vocals
2002 Joe Williams Joe Williams vocals
2002 Best of Squirrel Nut Zippers Squirrel Nut Zippers vocals
2001 Unity Lodge Johnny Irion guitar
2001 National Antiseptic James Mathus & His Knockdown Society vocals
2000 Shake Hands With Shorty North Mississippi Allstars vocals
2000 Bedlam Ballroom Squirrel Nut Zippers vocals
2000 30 on the Rail Mark Bryan guitar, vocals
1999 Freak in My Candy SKWZBXX vocals
1999 Brand New Lifetime Jon Shain vocals
1998 Heavy Changes Velvet Crush guitar, vocals
1998 Dear Enemy Dana & Karen Kletter guitar, vocals
1995 Summer Camp with Trucks DVD Hootie and the Blowfish guitar, vocals
1994 That's Why I Hate the Replacements Chris Stamey vocals




Singer-songwriter Greg Humphreys is performing solo more often in 2008. You may know Greg through the two North Carolina bands he has fronted for the last 20 years, Dillon Fence and HOBEX. He's released 8 albums and many EPs worth of folk rock, power pop, funk, and soul music and performed over 2000 shows across the US, Canada and Europe. Look for Greg's debut solo release soon. Also on the way: digital release of archived live performances and studio sessions. Greg is represented by Brad Madison at Mongrel Music -