But Is He Victorious?
Bobby Bare Jr. might have been scathed by a failed relationship, but he’s returned Undefeated. This is his fourth offering with his backing band, the Young Criminals Starvation League, which has shape-shifted over the years but has featured talents from the likes of …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead, My Morning Jacket and Lambchop. In fact, the album was recorded by Lambchop’s frontman Mark Nevers and Vance Powell, who’s worked with everyone from Jack White to Buddy Guy.
Bobby Bare Jr. was born into the Nashville scene, as the child of singer Jeannie Bare and musician Bobby Bare. Though his life hasn’t been entirely musical—he spent some of his young adult life lighting film sets in Tennessee—he was accustomed to life on the road at a young age, selling merch for his father on tour. Undoubtedly, being born into the industry had certain advantages, like benefitting from family friend Shel Silverstein’s constructive criticism, but Bare Jr. has decidedly carved his own path in the industry.
Undefeated is a breakup record, or as Bare Jr. self-deprecatingly puts it, “It’s really more of a getting-dumped record.” Songs like “If She Cared” and “As Forever Became Never Again” chronicle this failed relationship, but more often, this is accomplished with humor and wit. Like many a comedian, Bare Jr.’s greatest skill is finding a way to laughing at life’s monstrosities. That being said, efforts are more successful than others. For example, “My Baby Took My Baby Away” is an aesthetically charming country-folk tune, but the lyrics become troubling upon inspection. It’s hard to imagine Bare Jr. promoting any familial goodwill in this unsympathetic song that tells a tale of his child stealing his wife’s love away.
All in all, Undefeated is an album marked by consistency, with no songs weighing down the 10-song set. Bare Jr. is charming as ever, but still, it’s hard to imagine this album standing apart from all the fantastic music that’s currently pouring out of Nashville. This effort might prove that Bobby Bare, Jr. is undefeated, but is he victorious?