Immortal / Epic Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/19/1999
Bobby Bare, Jr. has a huge monkey to shake from his back - namely, the musical history of his father.
His band, Bare Jr., tries to cut its own unique musical path on their album Boo-Tay, but those who aren't fond of Bare's father's music (or who are easily scared away by the fact that Bobby Bare was a successful artist in an entirely different musical vein) don't quite know what they're missing on this disc. There is a slight country vein to the music, but for the most part, Boo-Tay is alternative all the way through - and, for the most part, is good.
Instead of running from his musical heritage, Bare, Jr. chooses to melt it into his own style of music - even to the point of using his father as a backup vocalist on "Love-Less". (The track also features Goodness's Carrie Akre.) The sound that this track, as well as many others on Boo-Tay, have is similar to that of The Bottle Rockets, almost like a Southern-fried alternative that one doesn't hear a lot of. Too bad, 'cause it's quite good - though I'm willing to concede that it's an acquired taste.
After the operatic 29-second title track, Boo-Tay kicks things into overdrive with tracks like "Nothin' Better To Do," "You Blew Me Off," "Faker" and "Patty McBride". All the tracks seem to flow naturally, and Bare Jr. (vocalist/guitarist Bare, Jr., drummer Keith Brogdon, lead guitarist Michael Grimes, dulcimerist - is that a word? - Tracy Hackney and bassist Dean Tomasek) know how to get their message across musically without overstaying their welcome.
There are a few areas, though, where Boo-Tay lags a bit - and I'll write that off to the band's youth. Tracks like "Give Nothing" and "Naked Albino" just don't light any fires under me - nor does the hidden track at the end, complete with an ex-girlfriend's answering machine breakup - but these moments aren't often on this album.
For his part, Bare, Jr. is an adequate vocalist; I don't think he'd pretend to be one of the better in the market. But his style does fit the music very well, especially on tracks like "Faker," where the slight warble to his voice adds a touch of intensity to the message.
There's one other little problem with Bare Jr. - chances are you've never heard of them. Even I hadn't heard of the band until Boo-Tay arrived in the mail. Here is where even a little radio play would be beneficial for the up-and-coming band. While I don't think stations like WXRT-FM or WKQX-FM in Chicago's spinning a song like "Faker" would make this album go multi-platinum, a little attention would let people know that this band - and countless others out there - are around, and are worth a little listening time.
Boo-Tay is not going to be the album that kicks Bare Jr. into the superstar levels a la Pearl Jam. But if enough people take the time to listen to it, then this band will have a fighting chance. That, and a little more road experience, makes me eager to hear what they have planned for album number two.