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Bobby Bare shines again

Bobby Bare is one of country music’s legends.

As an artist and a songwriter and a song publisher, he’s been a linchpin in classic country music since his song Detroit City became a country hit in 1963.

Since that time, he’s championed songwriters, including Shel Silverstein, Billy Joe Shaver and Tom T. Hall, either publishing and/or recording their classic songs.

“They’re the ones I always hung out with because they’re so aware of everything that’s going on around them.

‘You could take ‘em up to Wall Street and put them in a room and they’d still be the brightest lights there. They might not be the best-educated, but they’re extremely bright.”

Bare’s new album, Darker Than Light (Plowboy Records), is his first in nearly a decade and is made up of classic folk standards and modern numbers by songwriting greats.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for 25 years and couldn’t get anyone excited about it,” says Bare in a phone call from his Nashville home.

“I love these old folk songs. They’re so honest, so raw and the melodies are so good. That’s the reason they’ve been around for hundreds of years.”

Plowboy Records was interested. The label was founded by Shannon Pollard (grandson of Eddy Arnold), Cheetah Chrome (of the Dead Boys and Rocket From the Crypt) and author Don Cusic (who also teaches at Belmont University in Nashville). Not only were they interested, they were interested in recording it at the legendary RCA Studio B (now part of Belmont).

“That’s where I cut all my hits,” says Bare. There were plenty of memories.

“I saw Chet Atkins everywhere I turned. I knew where everybody sat back when Chet had his favorite band in there.”

Along with the vintage murder ballad “Banks of the Ohio,” Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie covers is a new collaboration with Bare’s late buddy Silverstein.

“The Devil and Billy Markham was a poem that Shel had in Playboy and I always liked it. I kept trying to get him to put music to it.”

Silverstein never did, but Bare decided to do it himself without changing any of the four -letter words.

“Of course that eliminated it being in Walmart immediately!”

Bare isn’t as well known in his home country, but he recently achieved renewed stardom in Norway when his song Things Change was a finalist in the Eurovision contest.

“If I get tired of walking around here and nobody knowing who I am, I can go over there where I’m a rock star!”

Bare chuckles.

Email Wayne Bledsoe of The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee at



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