So we got an e-mail the other day from a fellow named Bradford Barry. He said he was a member of a band named simply - in a move out of the Van Halen playbook - Barry. He had noticed some of the album review work we had done on The Pizza Project, and he wondered if we would be interested in reviewing the EP his band, a group of three brothers from Hume, New York, had put together.
Now the fact of the matter is I wanted to dismiss this request straight away. I am a busy man. If I have free time, I am either going to enjoy it by spending time with my wife and son, reading some fine prose by Joyce or Tolstoy, or working my cardiovascular system in an intense yet heart-healthy fashion (oh, who am I kidding; I would most likely be at the Wegman’s looking for a beer I haven’t tasted before). But then I noticed something. It turned out that Mr. Bradford Barry had done something very, very, very...savvy: He kissed my arse. Appealed to my ego. And I am pretty much a raging egomaniac.
So Mr. Barry, thank you for saying that I have my “finger on the pulse” of the music scene and that I have a “wonderful critical eye.” I, of course, agree with you wholeheartedly (even if this was a form letter that you sent out to every other blog under God's yellow sun). Now here is the review I have put together for your band’s new album, Yawnin’ in the Dawnin’.
Barry, a group consisting of three brothers playing primarily acoustic guitar, bass, and drums, performs in the genre of folk rock. This, quite frankly, is not a brand of music in which I would find myself traversing on a regular basis. Still, I was impressed by many aspects of the band’s repertoire. They showcase a willingness to experiment with kickass accoutrements like strings, brass, harmonica, and Hammond organ while displaying a promising ability to build satisfying compositions and instrumental passages.
The lead single off of the album is "Carnival(e)." It’s a rambunctious stomper with an addictive beat based on a thumping bass/drum attack. However, the clear highlight of the album is “For Your Own Good.” Rumbling in with a ferocious beat and a blasting harmonica, if played in a bar it would probably drive the patrons to a delight bordering on the orgasmic (although, I would hope not because Barry is just getting started and I don’t know if the people who operate the bar would charge them for clean-up services). Also affecting are the possibly Grateful Dead inspired “Three Years in Carolina,” (I say possibly because, for all I know, these guys think the Grateful Dead were a bunch of weeded-up arsemonkeys) which features another terrific organ/harmonica pairing and an acoustic pacing that truly drives the ditty, and “Great Unknown,” which soars on more organ (seriously, why don’t more bands use Hammond organ; it is like bacon in that it makes everything it touches better), some subtle horn work, and a wonderfully executed set of wordless vocals in the conclusion. This is the number one thing I took out of this album: these guys know how to put together an instrumental breakdown and a vocal harmony. Once they get some years under their belt, these guys might be able to put together some really spectacular tunes.
I would really like to have frosty beverages with these guys. I think that we would really get along, even if the bassist looks like the spitting image of Brian Wilson, the d0uchebag closer of baseball's San Francisco Giants, without the shoe polish and the Kubrickian psycho stare. I mean, I have an English bulldog; they have a French bulldog. They all have male genitalia. So do I! The fact that they are rocking seriously long hair and copious beards might drive a wedge between us, but, look, if it meant the opportunity to break bread with these guys and have them buy me an Ommegang or something, I would consider letting the five-day stubble grow into a full chin mane (I’m way too scared to get a tattoo though; they look like they hurt when they get them on The Jersey Shore). What are you on about, you ask? This is a music review, not a chance for you to make hirsute, farm-dwelling friends. I hear you. All I am saying is that when I do have those beers with Barry, I want them to respect me and I don’t think they would do that if I did not discuss some negatives. So I will do that, and, Barry, if you want to post this on your Facebook and get us some followers, just feel free to delete everything after “spectacular songs.” There is no pride of ownership here, Barry Bros.
Listening to the album, I felt several times that songs were a little longer than they needed to be. Case in point is “Great Unknown.” Like I said earlier, love the crescendo, love the organ, love the horns, don’t love the fact that I was kind of wondering why it was five minutes long. The lyrics could also use a bit of seasoning as well. Not only did they not engage my intellect at times (with “Drink One More” certainly standing out as an “only in a bar after five brews” listen), but the structure of the lyrics also started to veer toward the monotonous at points. Perfect example is “Carnival(e),” which had interesting sonics as I described, but was very predictable in its foundation to the point that, the first time I heard it, I wondered if it was a remake of the Gilligan’s Island theme music. The sequencing of Yawnin’ in the Dawnin’ would also make me think twice. No way should a band this fun and capable of stringing together jubilant moments ever end their album with two mid-tempo joints, the aforementioned “Great Unknown” and "Love Something Too Much," which I should just go ahead and admit was the only track of the EP that I would qualify as an unbridled dud. Even the blissful strings and harmonies toward the end could not merit its inclusion on the iPod.
I thought a while about deleting that last paragraph: I would really like these guys to buy me a drink, invite me backstage, and allow me to experience the Hume, NY, groupie scene. Plus, they all look pretty burly and if they ever found out my true identity, I’m sure they could bandy me about a room with two hands tied behind each of their backs if they were so inclined. But my need to apply honesty and integrity aside, make no mistake about it: I like these Barry guys. They have serious musical chops. They rock the Hammond organ. They put together incredible sequences of folk-and-blues-based glory. They harmonize with each other like they have been doing it all their lives, which of course they have. And most importantly, they work in a genre with the word “folk” in it, and still managed to make a record that wouldn’t drive me to run the other way in absolute horror. Not only did I enjoy the listen overall, but I look forward to what they have in store for the future. So Bradford, good job, my man, and holla at ya boy if you are ever in the Philly area.