Album Review: Undefeated by Bobby Bare, Jr.'s Young Criminals' Starvation League
Very Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Bobby Bare, Jr. has the heart of a poet and the soul of a drunk who can be counted on to tell some funny stories at the bar on Friday night. Or is it the heart of a drunk and the soul of a poet? Whatever the case, Bare has perfected the art of wearing his heart on his sleeve while spinning musical shaggy dog stories that can be either hilarious or harrowing, and he once again reveals just how good he is at such things on his fourth album with his Young Criminals' Starvation League, 2014's Undefeated.
Bobby Bare, Jr. wasn't content to hitch a ride with his Country Music Hall of Fame father or the Nashville royalty around whom he grew up. His musical output on three, now four, Young Starvation League albums has been nothing if not diverse, alternating between indie rock, dream pop, bluegrass and country. It's clear that this guy has soaked up too much music to commit to any one genre, and Undefeated is a satisfying addition to Bare's generally upbeat, hard-to-pin-down sound.This time around, Bare tackles wrecked relationships and parenthood in his usual heart-on-sleeve style, equal parts funny and dark.
Just when you think you have a sense of Bobby Bare Jr. ’s style, he up and changes it, which on this, his fourth album under the Young Starvation League moniker, he does on nearly every track. One moment he’s a sly, funny indie rocker (“The Big Time”), the next he’s borrowing a dreamy space-folk vibe from old Pink Floyd (“Don’t Wanna Know”) and then there’s the soulful country blues—with added falsetto — of the title track and the vaudeville pop with bluegrass banjo of the Nilsson-styled “My Baby Took My Baby Away.
On his most ambitious record to date, Bobby Bare Jr. and his band add a more liberal mix of rock to their normal punkish country brew and the result is one of their most consistently satisfying records so far (paired perfectly with 2010’s A Storm, A Tree, My Mother’s Head). That point is made pretty clear with the wall of distortion from “North of Alabama By Mornin’” that ushers in the album.