I’d never heard of Bobby Bare before. Then I watched an episode of Better Call Saul and a song played that grabbed so immediately, I had to pause the show and google the lyrics straight away to find out what it was. What it was, was Bobby Bare with Find Out What’s Happening. It was the kind of classic, storytelling country music of Hank Williams that sounds so simple and pure. I love the outlaw country guys like Waylon Jennings, but there’s something quaint about the Jesus lovin’, wholesome blokes of the generations before that. And that’s what I was hoping to get with Bobby Bare and Detroit City and Other Hits.
You’ve gotta love the hubris of a dude who releases an album of ‘hits’ the same year as his debut. Is he playing other people’s hits, or declaring these new songs as inevitable future hits? Either way, I love the balls of it. And with Detroit City, Is it Wrong (For Loving You) and Lorina, I think that cockiness is warranted. It’s the epitome of ‘country’ music in the most clichéd sense.
But it’s the kind of music that’s so good, it inspired the cliché to be created. Sad songs of lost women and regret. Happy songs to fill a saw dust honkey tonk joint dance floor. The odd gospel inspired song of salvation. There’s even a slow cha-cha, complete with spoken word sauciness in Shame on Me. “The more I looked at her, the more I realised how much I love you”. If lyrics like that didn’t get ol’ Bobby Bare plenty of strange when he was on the road, I don’t know what would.
Even when Bare gets into some classic rock n’ roll, there’s still a wholesome spin on it. Just look at the title, All American Boy. Detroit City and Other Hits is a little corny and I assume it sounded old fashioned even in 1963. But all of that comes across as charming and quaint, not out of touch or dated. Bobby Bare offers a great middle ground between Hanks Williams country, Elvis Presley rock n’ roll and even big band swingers. How had I never heard of him until that random episode of Better Call Saul?