Cover Tunes - Pros and Cons
Some of the folk songs are a bit of a stretch. The instrumentation on "Boll Weevil" (popularized by Leadbelly) is fantastic, but the delivery of the lyrics starts to feel tired by the end of the song. Bare's interpretation of Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina" leaves a little to be desired. The words and rhythms are awkward on his tongue. Then again, his delivery of the oft-covered "House of the Rising Sun" is one of the darkest and most haunting versions of the song you may have ever heard. Bare's low, slog of a bass voice seems to be dragging that "suitcase and a trunk" with all the will it can muster.
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" transforms one of U2's biggest pop hits into a tune which sounds like it could thrive on Americana radio (where more than a few fans are, let's say, cynical about the allure of the great rock band). "Banks of the Ohio" is another runaway hit on this disc. The song is so old nobody knows where it came from, though it's been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Pete Seeger and Olivia Newton-John. Bare gives it new life and makes it feel so relevant, it could be a radio hit these days.
The Bottom Line
Nonetheless, I'd be remiss to not recognize that the artist at work here is a legend in his field, and with good reason. Bare is a master at inhabiting the songs he performs, and he's joined here by some of the most extraordinary instrumentalists Nashville has to offer (Buddy Miller, Randy Scruggs, Vince Gill, among others). Even with a small handful of tracks dragging down the overall punch of the album, Darker Than Light is no doubt still better than most of what else came out of Nashville this year. Give it a spin and decide for yourself.