For some, the initial foray into the music of Bobby Bare, Jr. is by way of his family tree. While those taking that route may not find what they expected, they may indeed find what they needed.
Bobby Bare, Jr. got started in a decidedly more rock manner with his band in the 90's, aptly named Bare Jr., but the music took a turn with the release of Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals' Starvation League on Bloodshot Records. Much of the rock mentality and irreverence remained but more of the country roots began to seep in. That album and all subsequent releases truly are a mixed bag from one song to the next, so why should the live show play out any different?
Taking the stage, backed by drums, bass and keys, Bare Jr. looked part hippy and part dive bar regular to appear as some sort of homeless, road-wearied troubadourr. Plainly put, he appeared just as music sounds. As he switched between acoustic and electric guitar throughout the set, his dusty, weathered vocals remained the constant and were better live than on album. His music often contains a wry, self-deprecating humorous element that makes it hard to get to the bottom of it. One song can come off hauntingly earnest while the next can contain degrees of indifference.
Is the music so personal that it needs to be cloaked a bit by a layer of cynicism or is the subject matter so removed that it is easy to not take it too serious? For instance, it is hard to say with any degree of certainty whether a song such as "The Terrible Sunrise," which suffered live from a loss of the eerie feel created on album but was made up for vocally, is sung out of sadness, desperation, disgust or some combination of all three. Maybe therein lies the intrigue and appeal to the music. Regardless of the perspective, when Bare Jr. rolls out numbers as catchy as "I'll be Around" and "The Heart bionic" maybe one needn't be so concerned about it.