Bobby Bare – Darker Than Light
For this album, Bare picks a playlist of 16 longtime favorites ranging from traditional folk songs to recent hits.
The ones that work the best are the classics. Bare’s husky baritone and truck driver-friendly delivery are perfect for the Woody Guthrie classic “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” and the loping “Boll Weevil,” a tune he learned from Tex Ritter back in the 1950’s. “Farewell Angelina”, a Dylan tune made famous by Joan Baez, is delightfully simple, a thoughtful interpretation steeped in mandolin and fiddle. “Lookout Mountain,” written by ace Nashville songwriter and longtime friend Dennis Linde, has just enough electric guitar to make it rock, while still maintaining its country vibe.
Also included are a trio of murder ballads (“John Hardy,” “Tom Dooley” and “The Devil and Billy Markham”), a heartbreaking reading of Merle Travis’ “Dark As A Dungeon” and a stunning, gospel-infused take on the old sea shanty “Shenandoah.”
There are a few cuts here that don’t quite work: “House Of The Rising Sun” drags its heels, making 4 minutes seem like 10, and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” sentiment notwithstanding, comes off as maudlin under the weight of Bare’s baritone.
But these are small complaints within the context of a beautifully recorded album. Bare sounds great, his material is generally spot-on, and the production and arrangements are economical and efficient. A strong record from a man still going strong at 77.