Bobby Bare Jr with Carey Kotsionis; July 29, 2011; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music
It used to be that Bobby Bare Jr. didn’t want to play Madison or house concerts. Now it seems he’s anxious to do both. Not even four months after an appearance at the High Noon, his third visit in less than a year, he was playing the basement bringing with him the remarkable Carey Kotsionis. He’s done several of these house shows recently, playing unamplified in people’s living rooms across the country. I offered him the PA, but much like Will Johnson, he passed, preferring the freedom of not being plugged in. Actually, he had wanted to play the entire show in the backyard, but after I warned of mosquitoes and noise, he was convinced to at least start in the basement. However he couldn’t be coerced to play an encore unless everyone followed him upstairs and out the back door where he ended the night with “Come Visit Me in Music City.” One of my favorite songs of his, in it he claims “the cops all carry capos in case you want to change your key” as he extols the virtues of Nashville. Later people told me they were glad he hadn’t played the whole set out there since they got a night’s worth of mosquito bites during a five minute song.
Before the show I had asked him if he was entertaining requests, from his response I was pretty sure he wasn’t, but at least he asked what it was. Kotsionis claimed that if he wasn’t going to play “The Monk at the Disco” than she would, and she spent the next several minutes trying to figure out Bare’s tune. Turns out it is more complicated than either she or I thought, and it was apparent she was not going to be able to play my favorite song, at least not tonight. Luckily it seems Bare was just teasing me, and he wasn’t even through the first set when he announced after playing several songs from Young Criminal’s Starvation League, “Flat Chested Girl from Maynardville” and “I’ll Be Around,” that he was going to stick with that record and played the song. It is arguably his catchiest tune, and the fish out of water tale which deposits a holy man in a club where a tall bartender offering to sell him blow is the least of his problems was definitely a hit with the crowd.
Much like the night at the High Noon, Kotsionis came dangerously close to stealing the show. The spunky little girl in the dress and cowboy boots played a killer set all her own. When I was introducing her at the start of the second set, I confessed “Don’t tell Bobby, but Carey was the real reason I wanted to do this show.” From upstairs came an accusing voice, “I heard that….” Even though this year was the first time I had seen Kotsionis, it turns out I’d been hearing her for a long time since she’s the voice on many of Bare’s records. I’d always assumed it was Deanna Varagona since that was who I’d usually seen play with Bare live. Once I heard Kotsionis it was obvious how wrong that assumption was. She ended her set with the title track from her debut EP, “Magic Cowboy Boots,” a track that live she prefers to play a capella accompanied only by the stomping of her own boots. Impressive.
Bare returned to play a few more songs to end the night. One of these was “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” The Dr Hook hit may seem an odd choice for him, until you learn that the song’s author Shel Silverstein was a close friend of his father and that Silverstein offered the young Bare advice and opinions up until his death. Bare assembled an all star cast to cover his songs on a tribute CD and was also hosting a free concert in New York featuring many of the performers. It is probably surprising to people who only know Silverstein from his children’s books that he was a prolific songwriter and in addition to “Rolling Stone,” he wrote “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash. Bare talked more about this the next morning on the public radio show “Whad’Ya Know?” which he had been asked to appear on. When we met the host Michael Feldman before the show he said that he would have like to have come to the show but he didn’t know where it was. Which was too bad, because that might have finally convinced my mother that what I do is legitimate.
Bobby & Carey on Whad'Ya Know