Sunny Boy

If you haven’t seen the video of Bobby Bare Jr. and his son Beckham singing Shel Silverstein’s “Daddy What If” then get thee hence to a computer (oh, wait, you likely have that covered at the moment) and check it out HERE for four minutes of endearing father-son magic. This wee recording session promotes the new tribute album of songs by the late great Silverstein, called Twistable Turnable Man, but there’s also a bunch of history packed into this unassuming little vocal duet.

Bobby Jr. made an early professional debut singing the song with HIS dad Bobby Bare in 1974, and the cut was nominated for a Grammy Award. (See that performance HERE) At the time, Bobby Sr. was one of the leading songwriters and artists in Nashville, a remarkable musician who had the craggy literary bent of Kris Kristofferson and the broad hit-making appeal of Harlan Howard. Growing up in the thick of 1970s Nashville, Bobby Jr. befriended the stars and had his own songs critiqued by Silverstein himself. And you should also know that Bobby Sr’s. most recent opus, the utterly brilliant LP The Moon Was Blue was produced by his son, to great effect.

To see the gentle fatherly side of Bobby the younger, it’s hard to believe that as a frontman for his first well known band, Bare Jr., he made some of the most searing and intense garage/punk rock to ever come from Nashville. But Bobby is a man of contrasts and paradoxes. On 1999’s Boo-Tay, he thrashed and twanged. On 2002’s wonderful Young Criminals’ Starvation League (released under his own name), Bobby’s raspy voice tells melancholy story songs over a jagged acoustic soundscape. His new project is A Storm, A Tree, My Mother’s Head, which I haven’t heard but which appears to draw on a bit of a psychedelic vibe. It looks to be coming out later in August, but what do you want to bet it will be available at the show?

My focus on Bobby is by no means to overlook what an awesome lineup we have this week. We will experience the return of the legendary Tim O’Brien to the Roots stage. And this time, he’s bringing a band of friends, who happen to be among the finest pickers on the planet, including fiddler Stuart Duncan, guitar god Bryan Sutton and bass player Dennis Crouch. In case you’re utterly new to roots and bluegrass, Tim O’Brien is one of the commanding figures of his generation – a songwriter, singer, instrumentalist and band-leader with few peers. From West Virginia to Colorado to Nashville, he’s modernized hillbilly music, explored the Irish roots of bluegrass, and redefined American folk. I’m a completist collector of his work, and you might want to be as well.

Besides all that, we’ll be hearing from the spare but exciting duo of Jeff & Vida, a couple that sings and writes pure country and bluegrass music with immense character and many tasty licks. If you like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, you’ll be a J&V fan. Matt King is an eclectic character who’s made the journey from clean-scrubbed country radio newcomer to daring, independent artist. He’s a true-blue country boy from the North Carolina mountains, but he’s clearly a man of great learning and curiosity who’s added layer upon layer to his sound and image. His latest album Rube is a fascinating, deeply original amalgam of sounds and styles. And we’ll also be joined by Kenneth Brian, a new-gen purveyor of Southern rock and country soul.

Bring your fathers, sons, mothers and daughters. We can’t wait to see you.

Craig H.

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