REVIEW: “Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus” is a Meticulously Crafted Jewel


Bear Family deserves to be really proud of this one. The massive, 8-CD Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus released on October 2nd, and it’s simply a meticulously crafted jewel. It’s just about everything a fan of either Bare or Silverstein could want or hope for.

The collection comes housed in an LP sized box, reminiscent of box sets early in the CD craze. The set contains six full Bare albums, featuring more than 100 Silverstein songs. In total, there are 137 songs, the difference made up by a handful of songs written by other songwriters. (Hence, the Plus in the set’s title.) In addition, there are 25 previously unreleased tracks, and an absolutely gorgeous 128 page coffee-table sized book. The book features interviews, lyrics, essays, discography and credits, as well as a stunning collection of photos.

I’d argue that Bobby Bare is one of the most underrated iconic performers from a true glory time in country music. Bare is considered by many to be an integral cog in the movement that became Outlaw Country. Bare first blazed the path to artist autonomy, that would later be tread by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Bobby Bare was a hit maker that knew how to make things happen, evidenced by his nearly five dozen Top 40 hits between 1962 and 1983. Songs like, “Marie Laveau,” “500 Miles,” “Detroit City” and so many more. If you listened to country radio, particularly in the 70’s or early 80’s, you heard a lot of songs sung by Bobby Bare.

Now Shel Silverstein on the other hand, is likely to be known for his literary wit in works such as, “Where The Sidewalk Ends” or “A Light in the Attic.” Likely the majority of people don’t even realize he also penned such memorable hits as Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue” and Dr. Hook’s “Cover of Rolling Stone,” or “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” most recently perfectly rendered by Carter Sampson on her newest album Lucky. He even co-wrote “The Taker” with Kris Kristofferson. So you see, in addition to being a cherished author, Silverstein was also one heck of a songwriter, along with a cartoonist, playwright, and also a frequent contributor to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Magazine. That said, no one recorded more of Silverstein’s songs than Bobby Bare.

They’re all represented here, in all their majestic glory. There are six complete Bare albums: Lullabys, Legends and Lies, the timely, Hard Time Hungrys (6 of the bonus unreleased tracks can be found here), Singin’ in the Kitchen, the originally unreleased Great American Saturday Night, Down & Dirty, and Drunk & Crazy. I grew up on both of these masters of their craft, and found myself losing track of time each time I’d put one of these discs in the player. This is a hefty set and may intimidate many. But, if you’re a fan of Bare’s clever and iconic presentation, or Silverstein’s impeccable wit, this box set is something you’ll definitely appreciate in your collection. Bear Family puts out some of the finest collections in roots music today. I’ve never been disappointed in any of their releases, and Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus is definitely no exception. I can’t recommend this set enough.

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