This album crossed my path a few years ago, when I was carousing the aisles at Greville Records, not sure why I was drawn too it. I had heard of Bobby Bare but his place in the country lexicon has probably been overshadowed by the likes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, especially when it comes to introspection. Bare had first tasted success with All American Boy which had hit U.S#2 in 1959 recorded under the name Bill Parsons. Bare went on to record Detroit City in 1963 which was a C&W top ten hit and reached the U.S Top 20 as did the follow up 500 Miles Away From Home. His early work was quite diverse, there was the toughness of Detroit City and the folk influenced Four Strong Winds. He also took a stab at acting with a well reviewed performance in the western A Distant Trumpet in 1963.
A Bird Named Yesterday is a deep and introspective concept album revolving around the themes of loss and nostalgia, a reflective craving for simpler times. What is unique about this record is the spoken word passages that link each song, with Bare taking on the voice of the man from a small country town who bemoans the industrialisation of his small town, the man who is scathing of urban renewal. It speaks of a time in America, a growing sense of loss and dislocation, the loss of innocence as the horrors of the Vietnam War were beamed into the living rooms of houses throughout the U.S. Many artists looked back to country music for it's soothing stripped back sound. Ode To The Little Brown Shack, pleads
Don't let them tear that little brown building down
There's not another like it in the country or the town
Bobby ruminates on the growing reach of industrialisation, the Day The Sawmill Closed Down offers a different perspective, it's about how important these industries were because it employed most in the town, it's about the loss of love as his sweetheart has to move from the community when the mill shuts. The album features the who's who of Nashville session players, Fred Carter, Jerry Kennedy and Jerry Reed supply the rhythm, Henry Strzelecki is on the bass, Floyd Cramer supplies piano and Willie Ackerman is on the drums. There is quite a backing choir, including Marijohn Wilkin who co-wrote Long Black Veil.
The Air Conditioner Song is mournful, Bare recounts the days of stillness in the night and not the hum of an air conditioner. He remember nights in Newport Arkansas and the sisters who lived down the road and who sang in the evenings, the gentle breeze drifting the sounds into Bare's room. The album reprises the opening track to lead into side two. Got a Thing About Trains reminisces about the history and importance of the railroad and how it has become obsolete with four lane highways. That Old Gang Of Mine is more personal it's about the innocence of childhood and how friendships often don't last as people spread out. Bare takes on the persona of a man just out of the service and returning home to New York and finding that everyone has gone and moved and that his city is not the same. The Church in The Wildwood which closes the album has nice gospel voicings and some nice old style picking. Then the voices start,
Come come come (repeated)
To the Church in the Wildwood,
Oh come to the church in the dale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale
A Bird Named Yesterday was released in 1967 and reached #20 on the U.S C&W album chart.