Just as his music as been very diverse over the years, Bobby Bare's fan base is equally wide-spread, says the legendary stylist.
"I have a wide range of fans," he tells Billboard. "I was working in New York at a club one night, and came into my dressing room, and there sat Harry Reasoner from '60 Minutes.' He looked at me and said 'I just love that 'Marie Laveau,' and had to come and see the guy who sang it. I got a call last week from the chancellor at Texas Tech in Lubbock wanting me to come there. I don't know where it comes from. I'm really flattered."
That fan base will be thrilled to know that Bare is set to release his first album in seven years, "Darker Than Light," on November 13. The album was recorded at historic RCA Studio B - the site where he recorded such classics as "Detroit City" and "Margie's At The Lincoln Park Inn." He said being back in a place that held such history for him was a great feeling - though a little bit different. "It's very exciting to get back in the studio, especially Studio B. It was unusual to be recording there without Chet Atkins around," he said, referring to the legendary guitarist who also produced countless sessions at the studio.
The album is the debut release for Plowboy Records, which is operated in part by Shannon Pollard. The grandson of the "Tennessee Plowboy," Eddy Arnold, Bare said that he and his label chief seem to be of like mind on a musical level.
"He likes the same kind of songs I do. He came up with ideas on which ones to record, and the sound," he said. While many of the songs, such as "Dark As A Dungeon" and "House of the Rising Sun" qualify as folk music classics, Bare stopped short of labeling the album that way. "This is not particularly a folk music album. I'm not really crazy about folk music, but I love folk songs. So, we just treated them as good songs, and went into the studio with Buddy Miller and most of the pickers from Robert Plant's band, took the old songs with great melodies, and came up with something that isn't country music as we used to do. I guess you would call it Americana. It's a little different, but I think that it worked out really good."
"Darker Than Ligh"t was produced by veteran music journalist and professor Don Cusic.
The disc features something that has become a Bare trademark since the 1970s - a Shel Silverstein composition, titled "The Devil and Billy Markham." The singer smiled when remembering his longtime friend, who passed away in 1999.
"Shel and I did many projects together, starting with Lullabys, Legends, and Lies. He wrote 'Daddy, What If,' that I did with my son, Bobby Bare, Jr. I always loved that one, and wanted to do it for years. It was part of a series that he wrote for Playboy Magazine. So, I put a melody and some music to it. It has some juicy four-letter words in it, and I left it in, because that's the way Shel would have liked it," Bare affirms.
One song that Silverstein wrote for Bare that has become a favorite of his fan base was "Rosalie's Good Eats Cafe." He recalls that he and RCA wanted to put the song out as a single, but due to the song's length -9:30 - they had their hands tied.
"With it being the days of 45 RPM records, we couldn't get it all on one side, and it's not the kind of song you could break up into part one and part two," he confessed. "It's one of the most popular things I ever did. People don't realize had about thirty or forty more verses to it. That restaurant would have been very crowded."