Founded in 1975, Bear Family Records of Germany has pretty much set the golden standard for box set reissues beginning with multi-LP sets in its early days and moving to compact disc with its advent as a medium in the 1980s. The latter, by virtue of being able to contain up to 80 minutes of music on a single disc, afforded Bear Family the opportunity to amass even larger and more comprehensive retrospectives on an artist or genre spanning 10-CD sets focusing on such cats as Lefty Frizell and Fats Domino or more recently a compilation chronicling the Bakersfield, California country music scene from the 1940s to ‘70s. Consider Bear Family the vault raiders who invade the tombs of record companies and grab as much as they can on an artist and turn it into a lavish box set oft-times replete with hard-cover coffee table type book containing everything you need to know about the artist and recordings contained within. The country music singer/songwriter Bobby Bare has certainly qualified for legend status thanks to early smashes like “500 Miles from Home,” “Miller’s Cave,” “Four Strong Winds,” “Streets of Baltimore,” and “Detroit City,” as well as later hits “Marie Laveau” and “Daddy, What If.” A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and a master of the country ballad, that last mentioned hit leads us into this week’s Ear Bliss focus which is the newest box set from Bear Family Records chronicling Bare’s work with the writer Shel Silverstein. Silverstein’s name is one mostly synonymous with children’s literature thanks to books like “Where The Sidewalk Ends” and “Light in the Attic.” So how does a Bobby Bare and Shel Silverstein connect? Whereas they had met prior thanks to Bare covering the hit song “Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & His Medicine Show which just so happened to be written by Silverstein, it wasn’t until meeting again at a music industry party that would get the collaborative ball rolling. It was also lead to a friendship that would last until 1999 when Silverstein succumbed to cancer. Over the course of that friendship, Bare by his own recollection would record over 100 Silverstein compositions, many of which made it to records beginning with the hit Bare album from 1973 entirely written by Silverstein called Lullabys, Legends and Lies. It leads off the new released 8-CD LP-sized box set titled Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus from Bear Family. It features some 137 songs representing six full albums including 25 previously unreleased tracks. It gets the Ear Bliss look-see this week. Let’s get to it.
Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus
Bear Family Records
In many respects, the singer/songwriter and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bobby Bare could be considered the true father of the Outlaw music movement begun in the 1970s. Whereas credit usually goes to Waylon and Willie, it was Bare who was arguably the original maverick of the movement making music and albums on his own terms. That record was Lullabys, Legends and Lies which broke form with the singles-only approach of the Nashville music machine whereas an album would really only be about the few singles it contained. It was the methodology of the era and a formula that certainly worked for him what with recording such 1960s hits as “Detroit City,” “500 Miles Away from Home,” “Four Strong Winds,” and “How I Got to Memphis.” That was until writer (and songwriter) Shel Silverstein met up with Bare at a party and proposed a whole album of songs to him vice just a one. Within a matter days Silverstein presented the album to Bare who liked what he heard and especially the concept of a collection of songs meant to be taken as a whole. Silverstein took it even further by suggesting it be done “live” which Bare loved, but “live” by his terms meant inviting 50 or so friends to the recording studio to whoop it up. Whereas it went against the established norm, the concept album Lullabys, Legends and Lies was born. The album was a smash hit that also yield two Top 10 singles in the tear-inducing “Daddy, What If” featuring his infant son Bobby Jr. and the chart topping “Marie Laveau.” Most importantly, the album was Bare doing it his way producing and calling the creative shots. It would begin an artistic relationship, not to mention a deep friendship, between Bare as singer and Silverstein as songwriter that would result in over 100 songs and all of which are chronicled by the new 8-CD box set from Bear Family Records called Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus. Featuring 137 songs representing six full albums and including a 128-page hardcover book containing interview, essay, lyrics, discography and photos, it is the ultimate Bare-Silverstein deep dive. Those albums include Singin’ in the Kitchen which featured the entire Bare clan getting into the act, early ‘80s classics Down & Dirty and Drunk & Crazy, and most importantly the “live” album Great American Saturday Night which was held back from release for over 40 years due to creative differences between Bare and his label and with this collection is presented in its entirety. Too much Bare for one fork you may be thinking? Well, if you’re a fan of the man and his work this set is nothing short of essential goods. Put simply, the presentation of this material by Bear Family Records via the box set format with all the bells and whistles is impressive and the ultimate tribute to the Bare-Silverstein relationship. Visit www.bear-family.com.
Looking to hear some for yourself? Music from the Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus box set will be featured on The Boudin Barndance radio program broadcast over 90.3 WRIU-FM on Thursday, November 19 from 6 – 9 p.m. Not in the 90.3 WRIU-FM listening area? Check out the webcast at www.wriu.org/listen.
Now into November and outdoors being less of an option, venues that had been presenting live music primarily outside are beginning to explore indoor presentations that adhere to COVID guidelines for the state of Rhode Island. Pump House Music Works in Peace Dale, on the other hand, has plans to continue outdoor shows into December as weather permits. For details and information on upcoming shows, check their schedule at www.pumphousemusicworks.com/schedule. The Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston continues its indoor schedule with its next show on Saturday, November 21 featuring The Ultimate Van Halen Tribute - Completely Unchained. Show time is 6 pm. Check ahead for ticket availability. The Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich is also presenting live music indoors. This Saturday evening, the Odeum presents Forever Young at 8 pm. Attendance is limited, so check the Odeum’s web site at www.greenwichodeum.com for information and ticket availability. The Narrows Center for the Arts is hosting a mix of live in-person events with limited seats and streaming. On Friday evening at 8 pm, the NCFTA presents Colby James & The Ramblers at 8 pm for a live stream and in-person ticketed event. Upcoming at the Narrows is Bob Kendall’s Nerve Pill on November 20 for a live streaming event. Check the Narrows web site at www.narrowscenter.showare.com for details and ticket availability. Askew in Providence (150 Chestnut Street) has also been presenting a mix of indoor and outdoor entertainment. They move it indoors on Saturday for a performance from The Teledynes starting at 8 pm. Other upcoming events by the venue can be found at www.askewprov.com/upcoming-events.
Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.