July 16, 2004

Bobby Bare Jr's Young Criminal Starvation League "From the End of Your Leash"

I've made no secret that I love Bobby Bare, Jr. His two solo records, Young Criminals Starvation League and OK I'm Sorry are fun, funny records that never negate muscial brilliance for a sense of humor. I named Young Criminals Starvation League the best record of 2002, and I still stand by that proclamation. I've worn the hell out of that record, and I'm proud of it, too. Baby Bare is a funny man, and he writes some of the funniest lyrics ever, but his talents are no joke. Considering his father--and close family friend Shel Silverstein--were his songwriting teachers, it's really no surprise that Bare can write a great song.

From The End Of Your Leash kicks off with the sexy but brief "Strange Bird," with a sexy, intoxicating groove reminiscent of Morphine, which then launches into the even sexier murder ballad "Valentine." Where Young Criminals Starvation League was a wonderful mix of ballads and rockers, but on this record Bare and company never really set the tempo any faster than those two songs, and that's perfectly okay with me. For this jaunt, he's employed most of the massive country orchestra Lambchop as his backing band, and it's an inspired choice, as Bare's sense of humor and style is not unlike that of lead 'chop Kurt Wagner. Thus,From The End Of Your Leash is a wonderful wash of pedal steel, horns and percussion, and it gives his simple songs of love and woe a greater depth than his previous work. Though the sheer size of his band occasionally makes the album feel a bit somber, it doesn't do anything to detract from Bare's sense of humor.

Sense of humor? Oh, man, he's got it in spades, though you might miss it on first listen, because the music can be quite melancholy. "Visit Me In Music City" is one of the funniest commentaries ever written about Memphis (cowritten with Popa Bare, one wonders if daddy is lashing out through his boy), describing it in absurd manner that reveals itself as nothing but truth. On songs like "Borrow Your Girl," "Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)" and "Your Favorite Hat," he's fashioned his melancholy and failure into some poignantly funny and rather touching songs. Though every song is a real winner, the best of the lot is the funny yet ultimately moving "Your Adorable Beast." On the surface, it's written from the perspective of a dog to its owner, but careful listening reveals that Bare's writing to his love, the woman who pulled him up out of the gutter, cleaned him up and takes care of him. It's a moving love song, and best of all it's not sappy or cheesy in the least.

Don't worry that From The End Of Your Leash may not be as instantly immediate as his last two records. It's obvious that the baby Bare is certainly one of today's most engaging and interesting country songwriters. If he keeps it up, he's going to be in the same league as the greats, men like Roger Miller, Shel Silverstein, Charlie Rich and Bobby Bare. From The End Of Your Leash proves that Bare's maturation and growth as an artist cannot be denied, but I know one thing's for certain: I'm gonna play the hell out of this record. One of the best records of 2004? Pretty damn likely.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.bobbybarejr.com
Label Website: http://www.bloodshotrecords.com

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