Bobby Bare | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bobby Bare 

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At 71, country singer Bobby Bare has gone through numerous phases, but his smooth, instantly recognizable voice and good taste in songwriting have remained constant. In 1962 Nashville Sound architect Chet Atkins signed him to RCA, where he recorded much of his most important work; the storytelling in early songs like "500 Miles Away From Home," "Miller's Cave," and "Four Strong Winds" earned him fans in the folk movement, but he also embraced a lush countrypolitan sound on tunes about heartbreak and betrayal like the sublime "The Game of Triangles" and "Your Husband, My Wife," one of his many duets with Skeeter Davis. (Lyrically he seems to like a moral gray area--the pledge of fidelity in his version of Tom T. Hall's "Margie's at the Lincoln Park Inn" sounds more dutiful than sincere.) In the mid-60s Bare launched his own publishing company, Return Music, where he worked with future greats like Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings, and Tompall Glaser, and in the 70s he recorded scads of tongue-in-cheek songs by Shel Silverstein, but by 1983 country radio had passed him by and he stopped recording. Last year, though, he was coaxed back into the studio by his son, Bobby Bare Jr., to make The Moon Was Blue (Dualtone), one of 2005's most pleasant surprises. Working with members of Lambchop, the Silver Jews, and his son's Young Criminals' Starvation League, he delivers deceptively casual readings of pop and country standards, and while the production generally recalls his RCA days, the songs are flecked with incongruous textures such as the theremin-like whistles on "I Am an Island" or the acidic feedback burning under "Am I That Easy to Forget." These days Bare rarely performs outside the county-fair and casino circuits; this intimate city gig shouldn't be missed. His son's band opens. See also Saturday. Fri 5/26, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $22, $18 seniors and kids. All ages.

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