Monday, September 22, 2008

Live: Bobby Bare Jr. @ Mercury Lounge 9.22.8

I've said it before and will say it again: Bobby Bare Jr. is most important artist of our generation. No one straddles genres like he does, nor is there anyone who has a broader sense of songwriting. When you come from his genetic roots, grow up living in between the Cash and Tillis families and have Mike Grimes (of Nashville's Grimey's Record Store) as an ex-band slash roommate, you're going to have a much deeper well to draw on than the average performer.

This show was with The Broken West, who play the type of tuneful pop-rock that LA bands like Gingersol and I See Hawks In LA seem to make popular and are evidently on Merge. I prefer the power-poppy end of their material over the fairly generic Americana stuff, but they seem to be a decent, albeit average band. They evidently share the same booking agent and all parties involved were purported to be stewing it up at said agent's wedding for most of the weekend. It lent a very 'Sunday Night' vibe to the proceedings which was just as well for this old asshole, especially as I was straight off the bus from Maryland. The Broken West wrapped up on time and Bobby was on stage in short order. Evidently his drummer plays with And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and was tied up at ATP, so Bobby called an audible and decided to play acoustic with a little help from uber-sideman Chris Masterson. Masterson is from Houston, but has lived in Brooklyn in recent years. He is, in the parlance of the field, a motherfucker, playing lap steel, acoustic and beautiful Gretsch White Falcon as well as singing his ass off for the duration.

We've come to expect that from Bobby. No matter who he has backing him, they are absolutely terrifying players. Not that he needs the crutch. Over the course of his last four or five records, the quality of the songs have gone through the roof. His records have been on Bloodshot in recent years, the most recent being the Longest Meow. Bare is a man for whom music is music. If you're looking for a guy who will play a Smiths cover as readily he would a Hank Snow cover (or on this night a bitchin' cover of Bob Seger's Night Moves) this could be your type of renaissance man.

The set was pretty fast and loose, with Bobby taking requests for most of the set. As great as Bare is, much credit is due to Masterson, who fielded every song as if he had been playing it for years. I was bummed that we were going to miss the full Young Criminals Starvation League treatment, but Bare would do well to record one of the duo shows for a DVD. He is as engaging a banterer as he is a singer, and the chemistry between him and Masterson is a special thing that is a joy to behold. I assume there is a new record coming down the pike soon, as he played at least one new song, but look out for upcoming dates/info here and buy his Bloodshot back catalog here. You won't regret it.

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