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By nature sequels of any kind are sort of lazy and manipulative even if they’re occasionally creatively inspired as well.

But then again art for art’s sake has little room in the realm of “art for commerce sake” which is what the music business specialized in and so when your career solvency is determined by hits and misses that’s invariably going to mean that the potential payoff for giving an audience a second helping of a hit often outweighs the creative limitations such a maneuver forces upon you.

How well you can navigate this murky terrain tells a lot about you… both creatively and constitutionally.


Big City Clowns
There’s a tendency when looking back at all kinds of shallow and exploitative records to absolve the artists for their complicity in these ill-fated decisions, laying blame instead on short-sighted record labels who cared less about the music they were selling and more about the sales themselves.

No doubt that’s often the case, maybe even most of the time… but probably not here.

Dave Bartholomew has already shown he was far more creatively ambitious than most music men and so you’d think that revisiting a recent past glory for a decidedly unambitious second go-round would have all the signs of forced acquiescence that we high and mighty self-righteous purists rail against. But if we take that position in this particular case we’re conveniently overlooking one very important fact.


As we’ve mentioned before, although he wrote, played on and produced countless hits over the years which earned him far more money than most headlining artists ever did thanks to royalties alone, Bartholomew always bristled at being viewed as a producer first and foremost rather than as an artist… even though he was the single greatest producer in rock’s first dozen years.

Now that he was taking on that role full-time for Imperial Records and succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations right out of the gate it couldn’t have done Bartholomew’s ego as a performer much good to see his charges scoring big while he lagged behind on the best seller and jukebox listings as an artist.

Now granted, he wasn’t washed up as an artistically viable and commercially potent artist by any means as he notched a strong regional hit of his own around New Orleans this winter with Carnival Day, but when his musical surrogates were out-pacing him this regard he certainly was going to have his competitive fires stoked and would try to equal their success with his own releases.

But ironically that’s the very problem with Country Boy Goes Home. He’s thinking in terms of drawing from past sales rather than focusing on new musical innovations to pull in even greater sales for those seeking something better, fresher and more creative.


Couldn’t Find A Soul Around
The two songs – part one and part two in theory I suppose – are more like Phase One and Phase Two in reality, as this is less a continuation (though lyrically it qualifies as such) than it is a re-make of the same concept.

On the original Country Boy from last spring Bartholomew finally distilled his best ideas into one coherent package, stripping away most of the outdated stylistic touches he’d been clinging to and figuring out the importance of rhythm and riffs to put a song over in the rock ‘n’ roll idiom, in the process scoring him his first – and only – national hit as an artist.

Once he was behind the glass he improved upon that approach which resulted in even bigger payoffs for Fats Domino, Jewel King and others, and now that it was time for him to step to the microphone as an artist again he surely was going to rely on those lessons learned to bolster his own recording career.

Not surprisingly on Country Boy Goes Home he emphasizes those two elements even further in the introduction, muscling things up a lot by doubling up on the saxophones and steering them to a deeper tone while the addition of a piano ensures that the bass line can’t be missed as Salvador Doucette’s heavy left hand provides the most noticeable feature early on.

The first song featured more of a prancing rhythm in its opening, whereas this is more strutting by nature and as a result it has the potential to give you a bigger gut reaction… although keep in mind almost a year has passed and other records in that time, including those overseen by Bartholomew, have raised the stakes even more than what he exhibits here and so in the context of the two songs respective eras it might still be a wash in terms of effectiveness.

But as good of a start as this one gets off to we know we’re about to meet up with an all-too familiar narrative tale and so our initial enthusiasm is about to be severely tempered by what follows.

Wasn’t Putting Nothin’ Down
Again it becomes necessary to not view this entirely as a stand-alone record because we know full well that it was made precisely to lure in the listeners of the first record. That means comparisons between the two are not just inevitable but essential.

Bartholomew does himself no favors by sticking so closely to the original blueprint. Once he starts singing the differences between the two records cease being very apparent unless you’re taking notes on the lyrical updates of Dave’s character, who you remember was pushing back against the image of being a country hayseed by boasting about his appeal to the ladies in the big city thanks to his sexual prowess.

Here he’s apparently reconsidering his choices and is packing up and moving back home… hardly surprising considering the title is Country Boy Goes Home maybe, but when he then refutes those earlier declarations he made about himself being in such high demand we’re left a little confused.

Was he merely bragging to shut up the loudmouths on the corner last year, something which makes perfect sense in the real world but which he gave no indication of doing at the time, or is he simply in need of a convenient lyrical justification for his about-face?

I’d say it’s the latter because while he starts off saying he’s tired of being broke – a dollar doesn’t go nearly as far in the city, as you all probably know – he then tells us the girls are now making demands on him, calling him lazy and apparently his bedroom artistry isn’t satiating their patience for the fact he’s contributing nothing but seminal fluid to their nest egg.

The bigger problem though isn’t the mostly unexplained plot twist… I mean we can (and just did) read between the lines if we want to take this character study seriously… but rather the issue is he hasn’t altered the arrangement at all other than to beef up the parts of the instruments.

In other words you could literally strip the vocals off this new track and put the vocals of Country Boy in their place and you’d never be able to spot the patch job. Every single thing about this is the same – from the stop time vocals in the chorus to the spot for his trumpet solo to the fact he repeats his first verse on both records to close them out.

No wonder his girl called him lazy… this is the definition of it!


Tired Of Being A Fool
That being said however the sonic improvements are notable, even if in a way they’re a little less suited for the narrative here, since he’s heading back to where he came from with his tail between his legs and so the instrumental confidence isn’t altogether appropriate.

But it’s still hard to reconcile the fact that if you were to simply listen to Country Boy Goes Home without taking into account the prequel to it this comes across as a better sounding record… even for its era.

Yet we praised Country Boy and gave it a high score (8) while we’re mostly critical of this and downgrading the score a couple of notches. So what gives?

Well, our job here is a tricky one… we’re trying to assess the records in the context of their time and everything that relates to – the competition within rock itself, as well as the distance it puts between this brand of music and other genres at the time, but we’re also continually assessing each artist’s progress (or lack thereof) in a bubble.

It’s in that way that Bartholomew is going to get some demerit points. Though he did indeed modernize the sound enough here to still have this come out as a better than average record for its day, the fact that he didn’t take the same approach to modernize his ideas themselves is what holds this down comparatively speaking.

Maybe if the initial effort was a commercial flop but he really liked the song and so he made the effort to improve upon its shortcomings, hoping that it’d meet with more approval by the masses – most of whom presumably would have never heard an earlier failure – then we’d approve of his methods.

But instead he went back and took a legitimate hit and tried to score a second hit with the same basic song to pacify his ego. It may be understandable when it comes to human nature but that doesn’t make it altogether excusable when it comes to musical evaluation.


(Visit the Artist page of Dave Bartholomew for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)