Son of the South | Music | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Son of the South

Bare Jr. pounds out real, rootsy, tobacco-stained rock that dad would be proud of.



The last thing you want to do is piss off Henry Rollins. The guy’s as thick as tank armor. But when Bobby Bare Jr. was a young punk growing up in Nashville, he almost felt the full force of Hank’s fist. It was at an early Black Flag show—so early, Rollins still had his metal hair. Bare was right up front, slamming around in the pit. He pointed at Rollins—sort of a “you’re-the-man” salute.

Sound AffectsAFRO-CELT SOUND SYSTEM Vol. 3: Further in Time (Real World) The Afro-Celt Sound System’s latest release is a gorgeous mix of, as their name suggests, African and Celtic music. Mostly instrumental, the Afro-Celts seamlessly blend two very distinct musical styles. Further in Time features Peter Gabriel’s latest single, “When You’re Falling,” featuring the voices of Robert Plant and Pina. You don’t just listen to the Afro-Celts’ music, you experience it. It envelops your head and seeps in through every orifice. It’s the kind of music that makes you glad to be alive. Further in Time is the third in a series; I suggest picking them all up, because you can never have too much of a good thing.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT Poses (DreamWorks) As you may have noticed, Rufus Wainwright is everywhere lately. He has songs on both the Moulin Rouge and Shrek soundtracks, and his newest CD, Poses, was released last month. Poses is a collection of quirky, whimsical tunes that ramble and wander, but his soulful, achingly beautiful voice always makes it worth the trip. Rufus sounds a lot like a young Bob Dylan, sharing his genius gift for songwriting and tendency to mumble. Poses is proof that songwriting is not dead—and in skillful hands, it can still be a glorious thing.

RUSTIC OVERTONES Viva Nueva (Tommy Boy) Rustic Overtones are the perfect marriage of jazz, ska and funk. Many have tried, but few have accomplished what Rustic Overtones have. The Portland, Maine, band blend styles and borrow from different cultures and genres to create an entirely unique sound that you can’t stop listening to. One of the few truly kick-ass CDs in recent memory, if you can find it, get it. Not all music stores have it in stock—do search for it; it’s worth it.

LFO Life is Good (J) But this disc sure as hell isn’t. I wasn’t expecting to like this CD, in fact I pretty much knew I would hate it. I just wasn’t prepared for just how much I would hate it, and it’s not just that I hated it, I hated so much it made my head hurt. There is mindless pop-music crap and then there is this. I know I’m preaching to the choir in this regard, but if you have any thoughts of getting this as a present for your daughter, sister or niece, don’t!

—Heather Dixon

“He thought I was giving him the bird,” Bare says. “He grabbed my arm and said, ‘If you don’t fucking quit it, I’m going to fight you.’ I was like, ‘Don’t hurt me.’ He looked just like Charles Manson back then. I was scared as hell.”

Fifteen years later, Bare’s the one onstage getting vocal with the crowd. As the leader of the dirty country-fried rock outfit Bare Jr., he’s gotten a rep as one of the most obnoxious, gritty rockers around. The band’s drunken antics rival The Replacements. The music matches the attitude: Think The Supersuckers, with a broken heart and a serious addiction to sarcasm. “A lot of my songs are really just desperate cries,” Bare admits. “But if you can get a room full of people to giggle along, it makes it all seem a little less heavy.”

“Besides,” he continues, “this is rock & roll. You shouldn’t take yourself too seriously. If you do, that’s ridiculous.”

Bare was born to be a Nashville rebel. The son of country outlaw Bobby Bare, he grew up watching his father push the limits of country music while still managing to score more hits than Frasier got on Ali. He sat in the corner watching dad lay down tracks. He hit the road with the family band, watching dad from the merchandise booth every night. “I’ve sold T-shirts in every single honky-tonk in America at least twice,” he says with pride. It was like going to school, with Bobby Bare Jr. taking mental notes on everything: songwriting, structure, stage swagger.

But that was only half of the younger Bare’s education. He learned his other lessons in the grimy punk clubs of Nashville—yes, they exist. Like fellow country heir Hank Williams III, Bobby Bare Jr. immersed himself in the nastiest rock he could find. “People don’t understand that you can buy a Fugazi record in Nashville,” he jokes. “They think we all walk out of Tower Records with George Strait CDs. We do have rock bands here, I swear.”

It all became the basis for Bare Jr., the band. Daddy’s twang and subtle style bangs up against walls of feedback. Southern charm tempers any whiskey-fueled angst—like straight bourbon with a mint julep chaser. The band’s sophomore disc, Brainwasher (Immortal/Virgin), is exactly the kind of rootsy, tobacco-stained rock you’d expect from the country capital of the world, right down to the fuzzed-out dulcimer. Songs like “God” and the title track come off like Steve Earle after a Butch Vig production makeover. “Why Do I Need a Job” is the millennial slacker anthem that trailer-park punks have been dreaming about. And then, out of nowhere, come wrenching songs like “You Never Knew (I Lied),” with Bare showing his soft side as quickly as a flasher in Central Park. Bare says he’s just trying to follow in his dad’s footsteps, stretching the definitions of rock and country whenever he can.

“All of my songs are written as straight-up country, then we just try to pervert it,” Bare admits. “It’s tough to break new ground, though. That’s what rock is supposed to be about. But I just wrote this song about how we need some new fertilizer, because everything has been done. All the good songs have been written. All the good ideas have been done. I just hope in some way we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before, something you can remember after the show is over and the record’s stopped playing.”

And if the music doesn’t stick with you, then the band’s website ( will, if only for the bizarre comic strip. It was put together by drummer Keith Brogdon and guitarist Teel. Touted as the adventures of “Brainwasher,” the serial strip chronicles the Bare’s quest for his true love, Felicity, and his transformation into Chickenman—don’t ask. “I love that thing. But people keep asking me why, if I turned into a chicken, would I still be eating a bloody chicken. Who knows? It’s the product of a lot of pot, that’s all I can say.”

Yet, like most of Bare Jr.’s jokes, there’s a definite serious side—go figure—to the “Brainwasher” strip. “There’ve been several Felicities in my life,” Bare says, suddenly getting a little somber. “Everyone has one of those girls that control everything in your life and make you feel like a passenger. I’ve had my share of mine.” Um, OK.

Depressing confessions aside, Bare has some other issues he has to deal with at the moment. The group has gigs booked for the rest of the summer. Bare also has to crank out songs for a new album. Not that he’s worried. It’s the perfect excuse for him to sit around, slam a few beer and do what he was raised to do.

“My dad always said that musicians are musicians because they’re too lazy to do anything else,” Bare says. “I can tell ya, that’s me to a tee.”

The Reverend Horton Heat with Bare Jr. DV8, 115 S. West Temple (539-8400), Thursday July 12, 8 p.m.