Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley
Mr. Bobby Bare Jr. is a father now. He's probably one of those doting daddies and being on the road, away from home probably drives him crazy. It really does probably make him crazy, but no more so than normal, as he's maintained a comfortable balance of the manic and sane man for years and years now. The good news for Bare Jr. is that he's had an entire life to reflect on how he was going to be as a father in a similar situation to the one that his daddy had to deal and fight with. It's never sounded as if it were a simple life or one without great sadness and longing. Those feelings seem to have spilled over into his general countenance, giving him a reluctant vulnerability that, while guarded and protected most of the time, gets exposed in magnificent ways through his songs and elsewhere. I can only imagine the kind of blubbering and bawling wreck he was at the moment that he held his child for the first time. I picture him as this man who can't control his happiness, his joy because he can't help but carry around so much of the despicable and unwanted sadness that he's never been able to get rid of. He just totes it around with him, like a homeless man shuffling through the big city streets with a commandeered shopping cart loaded and draped with all of his earthly belongings - there with him always - as protective of his trash as he is of his treasure. Bare Jr. seems to protect his pain as much as he protects his happiness and it comes out in his music in the form of a worried heart. It's a worry that he won't be there for the ones he loves and that the ones he loves won't be there for him when he needs them the most. And there might not be a scarier feeling in all the world - this feeling, not necessarily of being alone and forgotten, but of being alone and remembered or alone and remembering and completely fucking helpless.
Bare Jr. is as natural of a songwriter and a storyteller as his old man is and his latest album, "A Storm - A Tree - My Mother's Head," is another collection of songs that reflect much of this man's soul - complicated though it may be. He can be a card, as on "Liz Taylor's Lipstick Gun" or "Rock and Roll Halloween," a song he co-wrote with David Vandervelde. He can be unchangeably depressed as he in on "Sad Smile." He can be jealous and windless as he is on, "One Of Us Has Got To Go," one of the two songs on the album that he shares writing credits with his father. And he can be that guilt-ridden child that he is on the title track of the record, a story about his mother (or a mother) making it or not making it through a horrible thunderstorm in Tennessee, while he was somewhere else, unable to help. It's a song that sounds like an imagination getting away from someone, of a mind jumping to conclusions of the worst case scenario, where a phone call or two that go unanswered give one a sinking feeling in their stomach and signify nothing short of serious injury or worse. Here, there is a one-hundred-year-old tree that's fallen into his mother's house and landed on her head. She's just lying there, trapped and hurt and he can't do anything. He's just a guy stricken. He plays the part well.