Starving Artist: Bobby Bare Jr Is Back

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Preview by Kevin M. Wilson
kevin@louisville.com

Like most kids, Bobby Bare Jr. wanted to be just like his dad when he grew up. But as Bare explained it, he had no run-of-the-mill father.
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“In my case, Dad happened to be a rocker up there shaking his ass on the stage every night. OK, maybe in actuality there wasn’t much ass-shaking involved, and I suppose Dad wasn’t performing every night, but he was still a rocker and so were all his friends, and so that’s what I wanted to become from an early age,” Bare said.

Indeed, the long retired elder Bobby Bare was an inspiring figure. A celebrated performing songwriter with a commanding presence, Bare Sr. ran with the outlaw fringe of country music. But he always had an ambivalent relationship with the music industry and was not eager to see his son follow in his footsteps.

 

“After letting me sing with him on an album and us getting a joint Grammy nomination when I was, like, 5, the old man got freaked out and tried for a long time to keep me away from the business,” Bare remembers. “Still, I was never really that far from it. It seems like I was on the road selling T-shirts or whatever my whole damn life.”

 

As Bare matured, he decided to major in psychology at the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />University of Tennessee. Soon thereafter he returned to Nashville and worked as a bicycle technician, ran lights at concerts and worked other random jobs around town. But it was during this period that he first connected with guitarist Mike Grimes and started writing songs for their project, which was to be known simply and collectively as Bare Jr.

 

Under that moniker, Bare’s raucous band released two major label albums, largely over-produced and under-selling affairs. In terms of sound, Bare Jr. put forth bold roots-rock somewhat akin to Jason & the Scorchers.

 

But soon enough things fell apart. The group disintegrated as the label lost interest. “Mike and I had a brief but intense falling out,” Bare recalls. “The good thing for music fans is that he went on to open Grimey’s record store and (the adjacent) Basement bar in Nashville. I started playing with a less-permanent line-up of musicians (The Young Criminals Starvation League) and signed with Bloodshot (Records).”

 

This seems to have been the right alignment for Bare. Since 2002, the League has issued an EP, a live disc and three acclaimed studio albums. Bare has certainly utilized his current situation to be more experimental.

His latest release, The Longest Meow, at times, bears a strong resemblance to My Morning Jacket, and for good reason. Jim James, Patrick Hallahan and Carl Broemel are among the 11 musicians that Bare employed for the now legendary one-day recording session that resulted in the album.

 

Bare explained how the so-called “I-65 connection” came about. “We started playing together around the time their record At Dawn came out, and no one really knew who they were. I quickly became buddies with them and fell in love with their sound. Then when the personnel changes were happening within their band, I actually recommended Carl for the job. So, we definitely have a history. I’m just glad they could come down and participate in The Longest Meow.”

 

Bobby Bare Jr. appears at HeadlinersMusic Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) with Son Volt Wednesday April 9th.

 

For more information visit www.headlinerslouisville.com.

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