A quick re-up here. The Barr Brothers debut came across my desk halfway through last year, and it was a jaw dropping collection set of songs. “Beggar in the Morning” was probably my favorite song of 2010, and the album has aged like vintage wine or single malts. Secret City made the smart move to distribute this beautiful record. Rather than review it again, I just wanted to bring attention to the re-release. Grab this now, folks. You won’t be sorry.
At the end of the day, it’s too easy to forget that music is really all about the love. As countless chord progressions and drum beats flood your ears, the cynicism of a jaded music lover starts to take over and enjoyable records are deemed formulaic or bland. You start focusing on the bad instead of the good, and even worse, you take an artist’s most intimate confession and write it off as a cliche.
For The Barr Brothers – that you might know better as the core of the Boston rock outfit, The Slip – their self-titled, self-released record is about the love. It’s dark and touching, beautiful and incredibly professional, but despite all of the intense emotions the quartet (Sarah on harp and Miles on bass) delivers on this shockingly diverse recording, it’s the pure joy the brothers take from playing great music with their new Montreal based friends that consumes you and drives the record.
Whether it’s a slow burning, intricately assembled gem like the opener (“Beggar in the Morning” – this might actually be my song of the year ) or a bluesy, harp infused stomper like “Give The Devil Back His Heart”, there are few ideas the brothers aren’t willing to explore, but all are handled with a skill you wouldn’t expect to find on songs recorded in a make shift, boiler room studio. Dense atmospherics fill out spare arrangements, and intricate blast of noise transform classically influenced melodies but even when Brad showcases his nimble fingers (“Deacon’s Son” for example) the guitar work fits nicely into the scaled back feel of the record. Their electric take on the Blind Willie Johnson classic, “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Cryin'”, could stop a Black Diamond Heavies fan in their tracks, but stands confidently alongside a delicate acoustic ballad like “Old Mythologies”, the gripping narrative of “The Devil’s Harp” (sung with help from Land of Talk‘s Liz Powell) or the touching tribute to Lhasa de Sela, “Cloud (For Lhasa)”.
This 10-song LP will undoubtedly fly under the radar. It’s self-produced and self-released, but it’s full of more heart and love than a young Rudy Ruettiger. It hits hard at just the right moments, pushes the boundaries of a comfortable, folk/roots listen by fusing vibes, pump organ, intricate guitar, harp and drums into almost every song, but above all, it’s a fitting tip of the cap to Montreal and the artists that keep the city’s creative heart beating. With unique musicians like the Barrs, it’s hard to say Montreal has given them a new style and influence they couldn’t have found anywhere else, but it certainly has inspired them to reach rewarding new heights. If that’s not enough to get you listening, I’m not sure what else the Barr Brothers could have done.