People who are surprised by Bobby Bare Jr.'s post-punk leanings must not have been listening when his daddy was recording. Papa Bare was pretty hip himself, having released what is perhaps country music's first concept album in 1973, a collection of Shel Silverstein songs called Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies. Later Bare was among the first mainstream artists to cut Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Billy Joe Shaver, and Townes Van Zandt material.
So it's no great shock to find his flamboyantly afroed son leading a crunchy, power-chord bashing rock quartet underpinned by his Smoky Mountain-tinged voice and, get this, the keening electric dulcimer of bandmate Tracy Hackney. The music on his most recent CD, Brainwasher: More Songs About Girls That Don't Like Me, is violently nocturnal and has a Nashville heritage perhaps only traceable to those who have lived there. This isn't the happy stuff most outsiders think of when they conjure Music City. This stuff is redolent of a nightmare Nashville, where it's always closing time, you're lonely and trapped in a club wherein people you hate are having much more fun than you, and you're dressed like the shabby used-car salesman you almost believe you are not.
Bare's lyrics are alternately pleading ("If you choose me over him...We'll find that old boyfriend that treated you bad / You can cuss him out while I kick his ass"), self-pitying ("The skeletons in my closet have more fun than me / I am boring and useless and my skeletons are fabulously unique") and defiant. Throughout, his self-deprecating humor makes him a bit like the ne'er-do-well kid brother you can't stay mad at for long, but woe unto the woman who succumbs to his boyish charms: "Your cousin Cindy touched me once / I did not stop her so we carried on / During family holidays / We always found a way / You never knew I was so untrue because I lied, I lied and I lied and I lied."
After two well-received major-label albums (1998's Boo-Tay was its debut), Bare Jr. landed a dream slot this summer opening for Aerosmith, so this gig may be the last time we'll see these guys in a venue as intimate as this. And it's almost certainly the first time Houston has seen a hard-rock band partially led by an electric dulcimer, so grin and Bare it.