Sometimes finding out about a band late is torturous. Like when the group just broke up or is on a clear creative decline. Or, worse yet, when one or more of the founding members have died and the band is touring around the country like a zombie version of themselves. In all these cases, you can still listen to tunes from the glory days, but you have to accept that you’ve missed out on something that simply can’t be recovered. Other times, though, being the last to know isn’t so bad. Under the right circumstances, discovering an artist after everyone else can feel great, like you’re walking into a party that’s already in full swing. That’s just how I’d characterize my first two weeks of listening to Bobby Bare Jr.
When I first heard about Bare, I was a few days away from heading to his hometown of Nashville, TN for a friend’s wedding. Not to get too touchy-feely here, but c’mon; what’re the odds of me hearing about him right before my first trip to the center of the country music universe? (Bare’s father is country veteran, having charted albums for decades and written, according to Wikipedia, the world’s one and only Christian football waltz — “Dropkick Me Jesus (Though The Goalposts Of Life).”) Did I mention that I heard about him from a friend who, at the time, didn’t know I was going to Nashville? As far as happy coincidences go, this was a pretty crazy one.
Thanking my lucky stars, I prepped for my trip to Tennessee by gorging myself on Bare’s music, which resonated immediately. I even stumbled across a YouTube video of “Visit Me In Music City,” an ode to Nashville so funny and catchy I couldn’t resist using it as this blog’s away message while I was gone. And as it turns out, I’m not the only one who’s enamored with him. In fact, he seems damn-near universally loved among the people who know about him. One face after another lit right up when I asked about him (my father-in-law was the one who told me about Bare’s father and “Dropkick Me Jesus”). All in all, it felt like I was joining a bandwagon that the people on board couldn’t be more excited about.
What’s more, two musicians I love have offered their own endorsements of Bobby Bare Jr by virtue of the fact that they have guitar and writing credits on A Storm, A Tree, My Mother’s Head, the album I snagged at a record shop in Nashville (more on this store is in store for tomorrow). THE Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket (and of Carl Broemel) appears on a few tracks, a discovery that may have set some sort of record for “Most Excited Face Made When Casually Reading The Back Of A Record Sleeve.” And who else shows up but David Vandervelde, the freakishly talented singer and guitarist who performed at my sister’s wedding in Chicago. (He was awesome. And NO, I did not request that he and his band play any Britney Spears songs. Like a gentleman, I waited until the DJ started to make that request. I’m not a savage.)
A Storm, A Tree, My Mother’s Head is an exceptionally good album, with one colorful mood after another, all tied together by Bare’s vivid, descriptive songwriting and pitch-perfect sense of humor, and I couldn’t be happier to have finally made it to the fête. You should join me! I’ve deployed a fleet of songs for you to sample below, including two cuts from the album and two live versions. Be sure not to miss “Rock And Roll Halloween,” which chronicles a costume party that finds Marilyn Monroe dancing dirty with Darth Vader and Elvis making out with Jesus. Listen below and click here to buy the album on iTunes.