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Published: 2010/02/08
by Randy Ray

Kevin Barker
You and Me

Gnomonsong

So easy to get lulled into feeling like one has discovered a parallel universe where Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, and Levon Helm formed a mellow buzz band. And yet, Kevin Barker, Vetiver guitarist, and fringe freak resident, has found a way to create a modern folk take on an old country rock vibe. Trapped in time, Barker does know what to do, and he creates a valid look at the inner iconoclast with a rather relaxed set of songs.

And hell yeah. That comfortable little wisp of warm air that encircles You & Me certainly benefits the consistent mood throughout as if one is playing softly in the foreground so as not to disturb the sleeping inner child in the background. I have no idea what the fuck that means, but I do know that Barker puts you in the right frame of mind to have those distorted yet bucolic strands of visionary imagery. It’s as if his muse is on some vacation-y porch somewhere, and he’s recording onto an old tape recorder, while straddling a tree branch from some moment a million seconds way back yonder.

Wrapped within the talismanic anti-imagery is the feeling that Barker has found his lifespeak touchstones, and managed to link his acoustic and lyrical daydreams on the brittle edges. There is a melancholic glance throughout these recordings, and they give a soft impressionistic resonance to the faraway simplicities of a murky atmosphere. One straddles a chair, nudges it back, closes the eyes, and sinks into a slow-moving waltz of post-Americana to find the mini-truths within-always near, but sinking under, always.

“Little Picture of You” offers a lumbering stroll through an old relationship, fragile and wise. “You & Me,” the Rubik’s Cube title track, seeks to understand, but toys with regret. “Mountain & Bear,” like the track before, features Joanna Newsom on near-REM/dream-state organ (well, technically, piano on the sleepy “Little Picture of You”), and wanders in place, with a clever drum accompaniment by Otto Hauser. “Amber” welcomes the Dead into its influential bag, while Barker strokes strings, and reminiscences, one imagines, on something a bit more substantial than the waves of grain of time which keep this track from appearing dated. Lovely and beautiful-the song also benefits from Eric Johnson’s backing vocals.

Side two-for you vinylphiles-begins with “Walking Along” and coaxes a fascinating mental travelogue out of its nearly seven-and-a-half minutes of percolating bliss. “My Lady” is old school country folk, sitting on the grass on a warm, summer afternoon, and drifts without nodding off (too much). “I Will Fly” benefits from the occasional pull of Johnson’s lap steel, but neither lifts, bends, nor dips; instead, it rests on the ‘lids. “Bless You On Your Way” is the final piece, bolstered by Ryan Francesconi’s string arrangements, and extends out past the dawn, neither seeking shelter, or condemning those that depart, those that slip out and in to the daily wanderings of a curious spirit.

You & Me is a subtle gem, enriched by repeat listenings. Often mellow to an extreme (and yes, at times, to a fault), the CD achieves a modest victory when Kevin Barker muses on his experiences, carefully pulling one into the out-of-time surroundings without appearing derivative, nor borrowed from the ghost of you know whosville.

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