In 2005, Bobby Bare was coaxed out of 22-year-long retirement from recording by his son Bobby Bare, Jr. to record The Moon Was Blue, a collection of 11 songs the veteran country outlaw always loved but, for the most part, never recorded. Bare Jr. teamed up with fellow country renegade Mark Nevers -- a Nashville veteran, but also a member of indie rock eccentrics Lambchop -- to provide production and assemble a backing band for Bare Sr., who would just pick the songs and sing. Bare chose a set of songs divided between pop standards like "It's All in the Game" and "Love Letters in the Sand," country classics like "Am I That Easy to Forget," folk-rock like "Everybody's Talkin'," and even a Shel Silverstein tune that he never got around to recording before ("The Ballad of Lucy Jordan"). His son and Nevers gave the songs quiet, moody arrangements ideal for lonely late-night listening, and while there are some arty touches scattered throughout the record, they're usually used as sonic texturing in the background, since the focus is always on Bare and the song. Which is how it should be, because Bare has always been a commanding, compelling interpretive singer, skills that have not left him, as this low-key gem illustrates. Bare sounds old and wise, but he never sounds weary or tired (certainly, he doesn't sound as if he's in his seventies), and his robust baritone provides an appropriately weighty anchor to arrangements that otherwise seem to float in the air. While Bare Jr. and Nevers certainly indulge in some affected artiness on occasion, it actually enhances the overall sound and effect of The Moon Was Blue; the contrast between the dreamy production and Bare Sr.'s deep voice helps illustrate what a fine singer he is. This is an understated album, never indulging in the myth-making of Johnny Cash's American recordings and never presenting itself as a major work, but that's the appeal of The Moon Was Blue: it's a modest yet musically rich album that succeeds because of its modest nature. Other comeback albums may be splashier than The Moon Was Blue, but few have ever been as successful as this, since it not only stands on its own terms, it provides a nice coda to Bare's wonderful, underrated career.
The Moon Was Blue Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine