Bobby Bare/Skeeter Davis/Liz Anderson/Norma Jean
Tunes For Two/The Game Of Triangles/Your Husband, My Wife
I’m a sucker for vintage country music, and I’m even more of a sucker for a good country duet. Thanks in large part to the success of Johnny Cash and June Carter with songs like “Jackson,” country music soon ran with the bad boy/good girl formula. Hey, it worked, and country was all the better for it. Morello’s latest collection is a two-disc/three album compilation of a handful of duets by singer Bobby Bare, with him being joined by Skeeter Davis as well as with songwriter Liz Anderson and singer Norma Jean.
In 1965, Bare paired up with Skeeter Davis to release Tunes For Two. The album’s lead single, “A Dear John Letter,” was a country weepie that went to the top ten of the country charts, and rightly so; Davis’ sweet, innocent voice fit nicely alongside with Bare’s gruff style, and it’s hard not to tear up when he speaks of his heartbreak on learning that his true love has married his brother while he was in Vietnam. The rest of the album finds the duo entangled in heartbreak, romantic frustration, and doe-eyed devotion, all enhanced with a bit of country twang and homegrown passion. The rockabilly of “I Don’t Care,” the gorgeous balladry of country standard, “Let It Be Me,” and the slow-dance groove of “True Love” and “That’s All I Want From You” make Tunes For Two an engaging, enjoyable album.
1967’s album The Game of Triangles was a unique concept; the title track was a song lamenting the dangers of a love triangle, this time involving all three parties. It’s an excellent number, risqué for the era and for the audience, but one that proves itself to be both shocking and progressive. There are a few other trio performances and all address the same theme, while a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” doesn’t quite work, perhaps because of its beloved status. “Three Mixed Up Hearts” is much finer, giving all three a chance to make their case. Also excellent is Anderson’s solo turn on “The Wife Of The Party” and “Fairytale,” and Bare’s “Homesick” is superb. It’s an interesting concept, even if the premise is somewhat thin, and not all of the songs are a trio performance.
Better is Your Husband, My Wife, his second collection of duets with Skeeter Davis, released in 1970. It doesn’t radically alter the formula of Tunes For Two, and that’s perfectly fine, as it worked so well the first time around. The production is a bit warmer and a bit more lush; the Countrypolitan sound was starting to come into fashion, and “Before The Sunrise,” “Let’s Make Love Not War,” and “There Never Was A Time” are already lovely songs made even more so with tasteful strings and pedal steel guitar. If there’s one weak spot to be had, it’s the cover the song “Jackson”; it’s not bad, but it is a clichéd country duet number. Still, that doesn’t negate the overall loveliness of Your Husband, My Wife.
These three albums were highlights of Bare’s country career in the Sixties and were relatively successful, but his career was about to take off, thanks to the burgeoning Outlaw Country movement, and his 1973 album Bobby Bare Sings Lullabies, Legends, and Lies, which would be an international success, thanks in part to another duet—this time with his five year old son, Bobby Jr. After that, Bare would occasionally record duets—the second disc of this two-disc set features three bonus tracks, featuring Bare singing with his wife Jeanie, Roseanne Cash, and Lacy J. Dalton—but the material found here remains some of Bare’s best work to date.