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Published: 2010/08/16
by Steve Brienza

The Barr Brothers
The Barr Brothers

Self-released

The self-titled debut album by The Barr Brothers is sure to put a smile on the faces of old fans and send the newcomers on a scavenger hunt for anything the brothers have touched in the past. Brad Barr is credited as having written all but one song on the album which is the group’s take on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Cryin’.” With the help of Sarah Page on harp and hammered dulcimer, Miles Perkins on contrabass and other guests including Nathan Moore and Jocie Adams, The Barr Brothers is a band of many friendly faces who have managed to lay down ten solid tracks that display a wide array of raw emotion that fans of these musicians come to expect.

Opening with “Beggar in the Morning” the group breaks into a soft acoustic guitar-driven groove after a very spacey effect-laden beginning. With Brad Barr holding down the guitar and covering the vocals, Andrew Barr makes his appearance providing a soft consistent beat on the shaker and an almost haunting drone on the bowed bass. As the song softly ends “Ooh, Belle” picks up right where things left off with a sweet-layered melody that lends itself perfectly to Brad Barr’s soft-spoken singing.

Changing gears and styles is something that these musicians can do at any moment. On “Give the Devil Back His Heart” a quick roll on the snare segues into a bluesy tribal sounding guitar riff backed by the consistent rattling of percussion instruments. The vocals of Brad Barr and contrabass played by Miles Perkins bring us to a nasty breakdown on the set by Andrew where you can just about imagine him playing live, looking almost possessed. Then, as if passing the devils heart off to his brother, Andrew is followed by some dirty guitar work courtesy of Brad. As the opening riff takes over again, the song comes to a close with the repeating of the eerie phrase “Give the devil back his heart.”

On “Cloud (for Lhasa)” things calm down to the point where you can just about get caught swaying like clouds in the wind. The violin and clarinet played by guests Chris Bartos and Jocie Adams, add a texture of sound that unfortunately, is not often heard in music today. Throughout the album Sarah Page adds her sweet touch on the harp and wonderful melodies on the hammered dulcimer that blend and contrast with the surrounding sounds to add a wonderful texture to the songs. The next track features the devil in the title again and he will prove to leave his mark as the tune plays out. A slow rolling guitar and dusty blues harmonica is accompanied by simple steady beat on the bass at the start of “The Devils Harp.” Nathan Moore provides poignant vocals on the track and the lead up into the chorus sections features nasty bass lines on top of intricate rhythms on percussion. The song has the feel of an old dusty western with a kind of hypnotic walking blues touch to it, a perfect predecessor to what’s to come. With a dirty blues slide guitar riff the band breaks into their take on a Blind Willie Johnson tune, “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Cryin’.” Andrew Barr comes in soft providing a solid backbeat on the drums for the initial verse and then heats things up as he and Brad seem to raise the bar on one another throughout the song. Things slow down a bit, with just Brad playing a little call and response with his guitar, before ending on one last high note as their well executed homage ends.

On “Deacon’s Son” the desert blues of Ali Farka Toure seem to have made their way across the ocean and into Canada. Sarah Page sounds great throughout the album and really shines here as she brings another dimension that complements everything else going on flawlessly. The final two songs, “Held My Head” and “Let There Be Horses” bring the album to a soft close. With a beautiful rolling melody on the guitar, soft drums and all the other instrumentation on top, “Held My Head” causes an instant sway in ones body as you just about float away in the song. With Emma Baxter lending her sweet vocals, “Let There Be Horses” is as good as things can get and wraps things up but not before Brad Barr showcases a bit of his ability on the keys as he brings the band’s first musical statement to a close.

Comments

There are 8 comments associated with this post

Dan August 19, 2010, 08:13:09

Best album of the year.

cosplay August 20, 2010, 03:00:07

Saw the whole article. Phenomenal interview: Fish describes his pre-show practice routines, how he felt about his drumming between 2004-2009, as well as the ideas and origins of the beats to songs like Party Time and Taste. Here’s a man who is SERIOUS about his drumming. He’s a goofball, but damn he knows his stuff

Jbird August 20, 2010, 13:40:31

This is the album I always mention when asked if I have heard any good new music. Best album put out in a long time by anyone.

Lindsay September 15, 2010, 16:23:02

Great review. You didn’t leave a thing out! Thanks for taking the time to write in such great detail about a band that certainly doesn’t leave any musical stone unturned.

links of london December 30, 2010, 21:27:18

I always mention when asked if I have heard any good new music. Best album put out in a long time by anyone.

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