Bobby Bare Jr. may have dreamed of mega-stardom when he roared out of Nashville in the mid-’90s, but the offbeat singer-songwriter has long since abandoned the rowdy mainstream rock that briefly made him a Next Big Thing. Instead, he’s chasing a more whimsical muse. Four years ago, Bare and his makeshift Young Criminals Starvation League recorded the eclectic, hooky, barely heard The Longest Meow in less than 24 hours, and in the years since, the son of country legend Bobby Bare has gone through a divorce and a series of family health scares, including nearly losing his mother when an enormous tree fell through her house and broke two of her vertebrae. A Storm A Tree My Mother’s Head includes songs that grapple with those crises, along with a song about a wild rock ’n’ roll costume party in Atlanta, one about the alternative-music heyday of 1993, and one about what would happen if Opie Taylor were the son of Elizabeth Taylor and he invented a gun that shot lipstick. And unlike The Longest Meow, Bare took his time recording this one—two whole days.
As often happens, haste makes a certain amount of waste. Some of A Storm fades into an indistinct murk of loud country-rock riffs and lilting Britpop melodies. But like the similarly off-the-cuff Ryan Adams, Bare has an uncanny knack for generating tuneful songs with unfussy arrangements, seemingly on command and with whatever instruments are handy, be it a rinky-dink synthesizer and drum machine or a full rock band with slide guitar and cooing backup singers. But Bare’s a better lyricist than Adams, capable of writing funny little stories that would make his mentor Shel Silverstein proud, then following them up with a song like the stark “One Of Us Has Got To Go,” about how badly he wants to kill either himself or his ex’s new lover. Not enough people are aware of the weird little musical home Bare has built for himself, but for those who are, every time Bare adds on another room, it’s an event.