Bobbo Byrnes’ “Mrs. What’s His Name” starts off ever so nicely, with a jangly guitar intro. Once Byrnes’ singing begins, he’s immediately joined by an organ-augmented full band. He begins by admitting, “All I’ve got, to my name/A few guitars and a little fame.” Therefore, it’s obvious from the outset this isn’t 99% of male rappers, who are nothing if not braggarts. Then again, a rapper with a few guitars would actually be a musician. But we digress.
He’s expressing the musician’s life blues with this one, as he sings, “If I could change/I would/But you know that I ain’t no good.” It’s also a love song, of sorts. There’s a price to pay, it suggests, in being married to a musician. The musician’s life is oftentimes a nomadic existence, filled with pleasant and unpleasant surprises. There’s no such thing as a regular paycheck, let along any kind of consistent schedule. Elsewhere, he sings – and only partially tongue-in-cheek – “It was true, when they said/I’d be worth more when I’m dead.” Well, this is certainly the case with many famous musicians. Byrnes, however, hasn’t yet attained that kind of fame. However, his is an unusual life, to say the least.
Stylistically, this track leans heavily toward folk-rock. While it rocks nicely, to a steady beat, its jangling guitar part hearkens back a tad to the Byrds. Byrnes sings its words slightly mischievously, too. The way he sings these lyrics tells the listener he fully understands they’re loaded with irony. This is not a typical relationship, which requires a special kind of girl to make it work. If it was like most other relationships, he’d be singing a masculine version of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” He can’t, though, because most musicians simply do not know what the phrase ‘9 to 5’ even means.
Byrnes has also recorded country music, and recorded it well, but this song is more of a lighthearted pop ditty, with a folkish feel. The song also includes a female backing vocal, but that singing is relatively quiet, harmonic and in the background.
Yes, Bobbo Byrnes has recorded weightier songs. Nevertheless, there are simple pleasures derived from this witty, self-referential piece of music. What’s best about it, is that it’s so personalized. This isn’t a composite of people Byrnes knows; this is his world, warts and all. Many songwriters struggle to write songs that attempt to make big statements and fail, more often than not. It’s extremely difficult to pack big statements into three-minute pop songs. Better yet, though, is when a songwriter creates a slice of life, which accomplishes so much more. The best of these songwriters is John Prine. He just has a way, in his lowkey stylistic manner, to write about the normal stuff of life, which makes the listener understand how these little vignettes fit into the bigger picture. Byrnes may not yet be at Prine’s level yet (along with almost every songwriter out there), but he’s moving positively in that direction. The other Prine-esque quality Byrnes has going for him, is a self-deprecating sense of humor. For all his talent, nobody comes off humbler than Prine – in real life, as well as through his songs. Bobbo Byrnes’ single is, in many ways, quite John Prine-ish, and there are few compliments higher than that.