Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminal's Starvation League,
The Longest Meow
(Bloodshot, 2006)

It could not have been easy growing up in Nashville as Bobby Bare's son. When your dad has been a country music star since 1959, when he was a charter member of the '70s outlaw movement, so that many of the best albums of those people produced were done at his studio, and when he is still one of the most well-liked of the older generation singer-songwriters, you're probably going to have a hard time finding your own way.

Especially if you decide to go into the music business yourself.

Bobby Bare Jr. was wise enough to avoid country music. Rather than take the easy way by adopting a variation of his famous father's style, Bare Jr. went his own way. You need a road map to see exactly where his road leads. His band has been described as rambunctious and freewheeling, and those adjectives are right on the money. It appears he would rather do anything than play a straight-ahead melody.

For this album, his third solo shot, Bare gathered 11 musicians, including members of My Morning Jacket, Lambchop and Clem Snide, went into the studio and recorded 11 songs in 11 hours. The result is one of the most eccentric records of the year, blending psychedelic effects, country rock, alternative brooding and straight-ahead boogy music -- often in the same song.

The result is interesting, frustrating, fascinating and occasionally wrong-headed -- again, often in the same song.

As ambitious as it is goofy, The Longest Meow makes you wonder if maybe Bare Jr. is, at this point, more interested in image than substance, more inclined to sound than sense.

by Michael Scott Cain
7 October 2006

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