Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2007, Volume 14, #10
Written by John Metzger
Wed October 17, 2007, 06:40 AM CDT
In the early ’70s, Nashville was ripe for a revolution. The honky-tonk artists that had kept country music alive during the 1960s had begun to follow a more pop-oriented path, and many traditionalists didn’t like what they saw as the future of the genre. Sensing the backlash that already had been set in motion by Willie Nelson (Yesterday’s Wine) and Johnny Cash (At San Quentin), Bobby Bare changed labels and used the opportunity to reinvent himself.
Shel Silverstein, in addition to his work as an author of children’s books and a cartoonist for Playboy, had been writing and recording songs for a decade when Cash took A Boy Named Sue to the upper echelon of the pop charts. Considering that The Irish Rovers also had scored a hit with its interpretation of The Unicorn, Silverstein understandably now found himself in greater demand. Everyone from Kris Kristofferson to Loretta Lynn had begun to incorporate his material into their repertoires. Tapping Silverstein to pen a full slate of story-songs, Bare carried this concept to an entirely new level on his 1973 endeavor Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies. The result not only was the best and biggest-selling outing of his career, but it also established a touchstone to which he has returned many times since.
"I may make you wonder/I may make you smile/I may bring the tears to your eyes," sang Bare with genuine warmth on the title track, which served as the introduction to Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies. Playing off a studio audience that included an assortment of family and friends, Bare established an intimate air that connected cowboys to folk troubadours. Over the course of the hour-long set, Bare wove together tall tales (Paul) with European folklore (The Wonderful Soup Stone); he delivered songs that recast gunslingers as barflies (The Winner) and western outlaws as motorcyclists (Rest Awhile); and he balanced witty observations of men and women (She’s My Ever Lovin’ Machine) with the heart-melting honesty of a dialogue between father and son (Daddy What If) that featured five-year-old Bobby Bare, Jr. The pairing of Bare with Silverstein yielded a magnificent and moving convergence of styles, one that extended tradition into the modern age. Bare’s comfortable, relaxed approach proved to be the perfect vehicle for delivering Silverstein’s words, and neither artist is better represented anywhere other than the material that was included on the original rendition of the album.
In its new incarnation, Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies has gotten even better. Its second disc compiles 16 additional recordings of Silverstein’s songs that Bare made between 1972 and 1983. Presented chronologically, the latter portion of the collection begins with Sylvia’s Mother, the tune that essentially sparked the project. Along the way, there are cautionary tales about living life to the fullest (Brian Hennessey) and stories that realistically address how Nashville treats its talent (Rough on the Living). The music falters slightly whenever Bare douses his glowing campfire by employing too much studio polish, and not surprisingly, the overall narrative arc of the extra material isn’t nearly as tight as the main event. Nevertheless, Silverstein’s words always hit their mark squarely. Taken in full, Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies not only highlights the role that Bare played in defining the outlaw country movement while simultaneously remaining on its fringes, but it also illuminates the influence that Silverstein had on the careers of Loudon Wainwright, Todd Snider, Steve Goodman, and Kinky Friedman.
Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies: Legacy Edition —
Bonus Material — ½
Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies [Original Album] —
Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies: Legacy Edition is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box