Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It's been a number of years of trying to get the great Bobby Bare Jr. into the Horseshack for a Daytrotter session and in a last minute scenario, the Nashvillian brought his bandmates (Matt Rowland of Ghostfinger and Deanna Varagona, occasionally of Dark Meat) for the day to Rock Island for a few hours this summer. It came just a day after a big Shel Silverstein event in Chicago at the Pritzker Pavilion - the beautiful, spidery, outdoor auditorium in Millennium Park, designed by Frank Gehry - where Bare Jr. and what he dubbed as the Popsicle Princess Promenade band performed Silverstein songs and more with his father, Bobby Sr. The trio was still shining considerably the afternoon following and session has a seasoned and scrappy feeling to it that keeps you rapt and interested in every turn and valley to these originals and covers that all sound as if they were scooped out of the same barrel. Bare Jr. grew up around some of music's legends, finding Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson or Johnny Cash in his kitchen on a given evening, and his own songs are imbued with the inherent recognition of what it takes to make a memorable and lasting three or four minutes. He drenches them in human tenderness and in sore-throated reality, for the times that don't or can't work out as well as hoped for. His latest record was made with Daytrotter alumni David Vandervelde and features covers of America and Bread tunes and it's called, "American Bread." He makes "A Horse With No Name," sound like even more of a deserted mirage than the original does, deepening his sometimes booming morning voice into a spookier version, like a sermon from somewhere just north of hell. It sounds even more like dead leaves falling over gravestones in a wet drizzle, even with a juggling bassline that motors through the body of the song. The line, "The humans will give no love," sounds so imposing in his aloof and jaunty flow. It's a sentiment that doesn't seem to be what Bare Jr. would feel as an overall take. Many of his songs express themselves as romantic visions of classic love, just in a more hunched over way - moping and hopeful, but never all that optimistic or confident that the ideal situation will ever formulate. The dreaded letdown, in spite of better intentions and care to stand down the odds, is always creeping in the bushes in the same space as the shadows. For instance, in his old song, "I'll Be Around," from his 2002 album "Young Criminals' Starvation League," Bare Jr. sings, "And when you feel faith run out, cause all the hope has drowned/I'll be around/And when you feel afraid to cry cause you're not sure what's inside/I'll be around/On your way down." It's equal parts love and all things unaccustomed to ever coming close to it - with loss of faith and inerasable fear ever present. It's just the way that the man thinks about things sometimes and then there are other times when the line from Bread's hit, "Guitar Man," - "Night after night, who treats you right, baby, it's the guitar man" - is more the mentality that he sits and chews on in his den, the very wishful thinking that keeps anyone making music for decades.
Bobby Bare Jr. Official Site