My dad does not have that many country records. Only the essentials - Cash, Haggard, Williams and the like. So I was a bit surprised when I found a couple Bobby Bare albums stuck together among the B's. Bare is not as famous as those I just mentioned, but is a country music icon; his songs deceptively complex, his voice clear and true. Bare was probably country's first 'cross-over' artist, penning songs that appealed to lovers of both Waylon Jennings and Bobby Darin. He championed traditional country songwriters, like Ian Tyson and Billy Barton, but also incorporated sixties rock'n'roll into his songs. One of his biggest hits, Shame On Me, is the perfect example - a country tune with a horn section!

[ mp3 ]: Bobby Bare - Shame On Me

Bare sounds a bit like Johnny Cash to me - an apt comparison since Cash was also popular outside of the country circuit. But Bare is a little more sunny than Cash. I feel like if you gave them each a handle of bourbon, Bare would end up being the life of the party, and Cash would go all dark. Like Deer Hunter dark. Ugh. If you watched that, here, take a soul shower:

[ mp3 ]: Bobby Bare - Miller's Cave
[ mp3 ]
: Bobby Bare - Four Strong Winds

Okay. So the stories Bare is telling aren't necessarily the sunniest. Miller's Cave is a vengeful murder story, and the singer of Four Strong Winds is abandoning a lover. It's not Kid's Bop. But it's clean, straight-forward, story-based country music. To me, listening to Bobby Bare is like reading a Kazuo Ishiguro novel after wading through Infinite Jest. It just feels nice.

Supposedly, Bobby Bare collaborated with Shel Silverstein quite a bit later in his career, and had a few hits geared towards children. My dad doesn't have any of these records, but if you do, let me know what they're like. I think I'm interested.

- N.W.