It was a scene that made country legend Bobby Bare have a little bit of déjà vu. After all, he had been here before -- many times. "Shame On Me," "Detroit City," "500 Miles Away From Home," and so many others from his RCA years were all recorded at the label's historic Studio B on Nashville's historic Music Row. That is also the location where Bare is recording his forthcoming album for Plowboy Records.
As Bare showed up to the studio last week for a session, he simply summed up his emotions by saying "It's a weird feeling. Very weird."
Though five decades have passed since his first session, the singer remembers that first time - in very vivid detail. "I see Chet Atkins all over the place," he says referring the legendary guitarist, RCA label head, and producer. "When I look out in the studio, I still remember where everybody was supposed to be sitting. For instance, I know the piano should be turned around because Floyd Cramer used to sit with his back to the wall. It's all kind of spooky."
He also remembers his first record cut at the studio, "Shame On Me," a top ten record form 1962. "That was my first record in the studio. When I opened my mouth, that's what came out - 'Shame On Me.' Bare reflected the song came along at a great time. "You talk about luck. I was broke and needed money. But, I was never in debt to RCA. They owed me from the day they released the records," he says with a grin.
Bare also recalls that Atkins used some new musicians on his music -- rather than the usual "A-Team." He says that was by request. "I told Chet that we started to get some other players because I was intimidated by Grady Martin. How am I going to walk up to Grady and say 'Don't play that, play this.' So Chet came up with Jerry Reed, Charlie McCoy, Willie Ackerman, Henry Strilecki, all new guys. It all worked out well, because Bill Justis was doing the arrangements. I didn't have to tell anybody to do anything. Bill did, but I told Bill," he recalls sheepishly.
Bare is the flagship artist signed to Plowboy -- a label owned and operated by Shannon Pollard -- grandson of Eddy Arnold, punk legend Cheetah Chrome, and veteran writer Don Cusic. Bare's signing makes a lot of sense, as he has enjoyed hits with traditional country, the lush orchestration of the "Nashville Sound," and some "Outlaw" flavored fare in the 1970s and 80s. The new album reflects a goal the singer has wanted to achieve for a long time. "I've been doing wanting to do an album of folk songs for about fifteen or twenty years. I'm not the craziest about folk music, but I have always loved folk songs. They're all about great melodies, and they're easy to sing. I just love them. That's why they've been around for hundreds of years."
A couple of the songs for the yet-untitled project are actual Bare originals, along with songs written by Tom Waits, Alejandro Escovedo, Bob Dylan and Leadbelly.
Bare, who just turned 77 years old, says that he's glad to be back in the studio for the first time since Dualtone issued "The Moon Is Blue" seven years ago. "Well, I am," he says. "I'm also thankful to be able to hang in there, and be healthy. I've never been sick, and I can still reach down and find the energy to it. It's rewarding, especially if you are in the studio with people like Buddy Miller, Randy Scruggs, and some of the members of Robert Plant's band, it really is. I can't wait for people to hear it."