Album Review – Bobby Bare’s “Things Change”
There have been many true country music “Outlaws” over the years, and many more that claim to be. But there can be only one original Outlaw, and that is Bobby Bare. Without Bobby Bare, there may be no Waylon Jennings. When Bare discovered Waylon in Phoenix, AZ in 1964, Waylon was still very much a regional act. It was Bobby Bare that introduced Waylon to Chet Atkins at RCA in Nashville, and helped bring Waylon’s career to the national stage.
It was also Bobby Bare who first rebelled against Chet Atkins, RCA, and the Nashville system, which in the 60’s put all the creative power in the hands of producers, and didn’t allow artists to record with their own bands. Before Waylon, it was Bobby Bare who forbid session musicians from playing on his songs, and started picking out his own material from renegade songwriters such as Shel Silverstein, Kris Kristofferson, and Billy Joe Shaver. It was Bobby Bare who helped inspire Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson to extricate themselves from their restrictive RCA contracts, and stimulated the Outlaw movement of the early 70’s in earnest.
But that’s not what Bobby Bare is best known for. He’s known for his early country mod material, appearing in suits and singing Countrypolitan songs of the time such as “Detroit City” with its lush chorus lines. Later he would be known for the novelty songs by Shel Silverstein, and Paul Craft’s “Drop Kick Me Jesus.” Though no less an Outlaw than any of the other greats of the era, Bobby Bare didn’t have the rough persona preceding him like Waylon did. He didn’t have the crossover or acting success of Willie Nelson or Kris Kristofferson. His output was quality, and timeless, but perhaps not as defining of an era as others. Yet without Bare, the Outlaw era arguably may have never happened.
Now at 82, and with his name already enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Bobby Bare doesn’t owe anything to anybody. Unlike Willie and some older artists, he doesn’t seem to have the desire to die on stage. But he does have the desire to keep moving forward as long as his energy allows, and the crowds assemble to see him.
Bobby Bare’s first record in five years features many new original songs from Bare, a remake of his legendary “Detroit City” with Chris Stapleton, a song called “I Drink” by songwriter and Americana performer Mary Gauthier that is exactly the kind of drinking song you wish country radio would still play, and a co-write with Guy Clark that is considered as Clark’s last written song.
Produced by Max D. Barnes, Things Change doesn’t find Bobby Bare suffering from old man’s syndrome and bemoaning the changing world around him, it’s Bare using the wisdom of his age to understand that change is the only constant, and that just when you have a handle on things, it’s sure to change again. Though it seems like a simple concept, the expression of simple truths is what is at the heart of most great songs, and that’s the reason the title track won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 through Norwegian musician Petter Øien in 2012.
“Ain’t No Sure Thing” reinforces this concept, and Things Change is full of fluid moments and sharp observations on life, like the brilliant “The Trouble With Angels” about the often fleeting nature of grace and love. Bare does fall into a little sad reminiscing in songs like “Mercy Now” and “Where Did It Go,” but at 82-years-old, this is what you expect, and kind of want from an artist like Bobby Bare.
The weather and age is obvious in Bare’s voice in his slight warble, but it’s just as much endearing as anything, whether it’s in its tear-soaked reminiscence, or its dry humor. Things Change doesn’t feel essential, or a like high water mark like we’ve heard from some older artists recently such as Willie Nelson, but it’s a strong offering that grows on you, and is graced by the warm presence of Bare’s voice.
Of all the great things Bare has forged in his legacy, one of his most lasting contributions might be his 1,000-watt smile and those emotion-filled eyes that have withstood all the separate eras his career has traversed, and they still hold up today. As you listen to Things Change, you can’t help but see that smile in the mind’s eye, and it puts you in a place only the best music experiences can.
Bobby Bare’s days of hit records and heavy influence in the music industry are over, but life goes on, and so does the music. Things change, but Bobby Bare’s legacy will remained cemented in time.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7/10)
– – – – – – – – –
June 6, 2017 @ 10:49 am
Cool that he’s still kicking around, cowboys and daddy’s is one of my favorite albums, especially his cover of faster horses.
June 9, 2017 @ 6:52 pm
I first heard Bare’s version of “Faster Horses” on that “Cowboys/Daddies” CD reissue.
Some time later, I bought a new car, which came with Serious XM pre-installed, with its “Willie’s Roadhouse” channel, so I started hearing the original Tom T. Hall version, which was in their rotation. Truthfully, the song seemed to fit outlaw Bare much better than it did Mr. “Clayton Delaney”/”Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” I thought Bobby’s version of that song was far better.
June 6, 2017 @ 11:09 am
His cuts of ‘How I Got To Memphis’ and ‘Streets of Baltimore’ will forever be two of my all time favorites. This is also an excellent album. Something about his voice just gives me a warm feeling inside.
June 6, 2017 @ 11:37 am
Really great article Trigger. I enjoyed the background of what became the Outlaw movement. Are there any further readings on the subject you can recommend? Thanks in advance.
June 6, 2017 @ 11:43 am
Here is some background if haven’t seen it…
June 6, 2017 @ 1:01 pm
Thank you Kent.
June 6, 2017 @ 2:12 pm
You’re welcome… 🙂 But there is another documentary on Youtube better than this one. I just can’t find it.
June 6, 2017 @ 11:07 pm
Here’s a good video:
June 7, 2017 @ 3:53 am
Thanks! Have not seen that video… :.-)
June 7, 2017 @ 4:28 am
And for anyone who has not seen that interview, it is divided into 6 parts, (Six videos). So don’t miss any part, it’s a great interview. Part of what is being discussed is just as relevant today as it was -84 when interview was made…
June 6, 2017 @ 12:36 pm
The insight into Bare I posted in the review comes from Waylon’s account of things in his autobiography with Lenny Kaye. Honestly, I have never found a good, in-depth account of Bobby Bare’s contributions to the Outlaw movement (or the Outlaw movement in general) online, only in older books.
This is how Waylon portrays Bobby Bare selling him to Chet Atkins after seeing him in Phoenix:
“‘Chet,’ he said. ‘I’ve just seen Waylon. He’s the best thing since Elvis. I know he and I are doing the same kind of songs, the same kind of material for the same kind of audience. But I dug everything about him: his voice, the way the band stays out of his way so you can hear him sing, his hold on the audience. He is so good, he deserves to be on a major label.'”
June 6, 2017 @ 5:38 pm
Some of the newer singers might pay heed to “the band stays out of his way so you can hear him sing”.
June 6, 2017 @ 11:49 am
I don’t give a flying crap about who’s “Outlaw”. I just love Country music.
I’ll take “Detroit City” Bobby Bare over “Outlaw” Bobby Bare 7 days a week.
June 6, 2017 @ 12:09 pm
Honky I see u post often I’m just curious who ur 5 favorite singers off all time are mine would be in no real order would be
June 6, 2017 @ 12:40 pm
I like your list. I will just contribute mine below
June 6, 2017 @ 1:18 pm
Ya right on! My list was almost just like yours but I decided to exchange cash for paycheck, and I didn’t feel I could leave jones off the list.
June 6, 2017 @ 1:29 pm
Yeah. I like Jones too. But I just like the edge and gruff and roughness on Hank Jr’s voice. Also Cash because of the booming like presence of his voice because of the depth he could fill a room with it even by whispering I really gathered an appreciation for his voice by listening to some of his spoken word and stripped down pieces.
June 6, 2017 @ 4:05 pm
I don’t have a list of favorites, but I like everybody on your list. I mostly like everybody who had a hit between 1925 and 1995.
June 6, 2017 @ 4:58 pm
Thanks for replying, being 21 years old and Trying to dig into all the older stuff gets a bit daunting. I always try to ask people who there favorites f and see if they have any really different answers then I’m used to.
June 6, 2017 @ 7:40 pm
Cool to hear a 21 year old discovering real Country! Yeah, its an affliction I gladly have…love of all things C&W. You will go through many phases of discovery as most of us do. What may strike you as great today, will be different as time goes on. I used to resist the real old timey guys until I had some breakthroughs. The Outlaw guys just named above are favorites for sure, but its fun to look at who influenced them. For example, Willie is heavily influenced by Lefty Frizzell and Waylon cited Bob Wills. Everybody cites Hank Williams but then we tend to forget about Ernest Tubb. Ive been listening to him quite a bit lately. I mean, he defined Honky-Tonk in every way. He did two duet records with Loretta Lynn that are epic, absolutely gold! Definitely check him out, but not till you are really ready. Also, DAC, Jerry Jeff Walker are essentials as is Billy Joe Shaver. Then there’s Jerry Reed….Keith Whitley…..I could go on…
June 6, 2017 @ 9:07 pm
Ya thanks for the tips. Getting real into Honky tonk now my favorite record right now is lonesome fugitive by Merle. I love hank and lefty and know the basic Ernst tubb, I love Keith, and DAC and I know a bit of billy joe. But even that feels like scratching the surface.
June 7, 2017 @ 5:52 am
You like classic Honky Tonk and you like Hag.Try Wynn Stewart, another Bakersfield guy. Early Ray Price, before he became a lite FM style crooner, he had a killer western swing and honky tonk sound. Then there is the early rockabilly stuff by Johnny Horton like Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor, Honky Tonk Man, Wild One, One Woman Man.Also Buck Owens who defines Bakersfield. Enjoy!
June 6, 2017 @ 2:33 pm
Down & Dirty and Drunk & Crazy are still 2 of my favorite albums. Found out a few years ago Down & Dirty wasn’t recorded live and it made me love it even more
June 6, 2017 @ 6:00 pm
5 is too short! Have to include a spot for Willie. Too unique not to include.
June 9, 2017 @ 6:59 pm
I’m pretty sure that it’s the Outlaw Bare that enabled his career to survive for half a century-plus.
“Detroit City” and “500 Miles” were fine, but then Bare started doing too damn many songs where he moped about being homesick that it became almost a joke. The later outlaw raconteur persona rejuvenated him and survived.
June 6, 2017 @ 8:00 pm
Really loved that video (and song!) “Things Change”.
I enjoyed the mildly self-deprecating humour of it – not-to-mention the simple, sincere message without falling back on cookie-cutter lyrics.
I confess, I come to this knowing Bobby Bare in name and general reputation only. Undoubtedly a gem of this music genre and not the last time I’ll take an interest in his music.
June 7, 2017 @ 2:32 am
Please don’t any of you assholes, (said with love) forget that Billy Joe Shaver is the reason Outlaw country music came to town. Bobby Bare ripped Billy off by paying him pennies on the dollar. Waylon knew he couldn’t hold a candle to Billy Joe when it came time to write a song. The Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson, is the only musical genius of that time besides John R Cash who really appreciated Billy Joe Shaver
June 7, 2017 @ 4:48 am
He says he only likes to perform where he can fish too so it can be hard but I highly recommend his shows; last caught him in NE a few years back and he can still sing, along with all his jokes and stage banter, and then afterwards he took the time to sign my brother and I’s records, tell us some stories about Shel, and after we got a picture with him his wife Jeannie ran up and insisted on a picture with her camera – to capture, as she said, the youngest guys at the show.
June 7, 2017 @ 5:25 am
He had always been, and remai, a true gem.
I was listening to Margie’s at the Lincoln Park Inn just yesterday and marveling at Bobby’s handiwork.
June 7, 2017 @ 9:41 am
I did a handful of tours with Bare in the middle 80’s. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s a hoot, to say the least. Musicians got a square deal. The ONLY downside was that fucking bus! The hanging shop light in the hallway gave credence to the talk that Bare still has the first nickel he ever made. And watch out for the spit cups! I loved working with him. Thanks Trigger.
June 7, 2017 @ 9:53 am
Been a fan for a long time. Love the album Lulabys legends and lies, and down and dirty. Rosies good eats café is one of my favorite songs ever. Looking forward to hearing his new stuff.
June 8, 2017 @ 10:54 am
Heard him doing Mary Gauthier’s “I Drink” on the Sirius Outlaw Country channel. I had completely forgotten just how good that song was, that whole Mercy Now album was excellent come to think of it. Looking forward to hearing this one.