To think, the music industry had a potential super-genre to milk and didn't jump all over it. The suits who oversaturated our ears with boy bands, rap-rock and grunge had an opportunity to do the same with revitalized country singers after Johnny Cash's successful American series, but it's probably better that they didn't; after all, Kenny Rogers never burdened us with a Public Enemy duet album. Even better, Bobby Bare's return after more than two decades of recorded silence won't be overhyped by such a "movement," which is good, because The Moon Was Blue isn't so much a year's best as it is a pleasant surprise. The album isn't just produced by Bobby Bare Jr., the man behind alt-country landmark Young Criminal's Starvation League--Bare's son spreads '70s soul and country on every song with such care that the album comes off more like a tribute and thank-you to the country great. Anyone expecting raw emotions equivalent to Cash's final recordings will be disappointed, as Bare Jr.'s arrangements put an odd, springtime step in melancholy covers like "Ballad of Lucy Johnson" and "Lovers in the Sand." But there's an exception to the ill-fitting arrangements--opener "Are You Sincere" is the most gorgeous country song on tape this year, with Bare's worn voice belting a lover's plea over strings and cooing harmony vocals, and it's the best father-son picnic you're likely to ever hear.
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