(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, August 15, 2011

CD review - Barry, Yawnin' In the Dawnin' (2011)

Folk rockers from New York make a solid debut

Barry is genuine. Barry is sincere and not afraid to be a little cornball. Barry is a folk rock band made up of three brothers. I've sat in with my brother's band and it sounded great. But it's hard to imagine adding a third brother and making a band work. Pat (guitar/harmonica), Ben (bass), and Brad (drums) Barry may secretly fight at home or even onstage, but on Yawnin' In the Dawnin', they smoothly mesh together to create a solid sound with some interesting songs.

Against a sea of low-fi, indie releases, it's refreshing to hear such a well made album. The arrangements and the engineering are top notch. The mixing is particularly fine: the vocals are always clear and the individual instruments stand out. Album production values are rarely worth mentioning: if the band isn't deliberately making an unaesthetic statement, most self-produced albums are merely competently engineered. Yawnin' In the Dawnin' sounds professionally produced.

Musically, Barry offers up a nice palette of sounds across the EP. Three Years in Carolina lays down a simple vibe that hearkens back to folk rock acts of the early '70s. With brothers singing, it's no surprise that the harmonies are sweet. But the two part (and occasional three part) vocals are smoothly arranged. The musical flow is effortless: a chorus slides right into a harmonica solo that hits a perfect up and down dynamic. Then that sets up a slower verse and chorus. The breaks and deceptively simple feel recall the Band's classic songs.

In stark contrast, Carnival(E) has a darker feel. The bass and cut-time beat hint at the carny sound without taking it as far as Tom Waits would. That leaves room for the rocker chorus, which sounds great against the verses. I love this track, but there was a weakness because the chorus and verses don't really tie together lyrically. The carnival theme in the verses:
Welcome to the carnival
the strong man lifts his weight while on a wire
And he breathes fire
Marvel at the acrobat, lion tamers, jugglers and a psychic
Come one, come all to see the show
seems too loosely related to the chorus:
Maybe I'm the fallen man,
The bearded, tattooed long-haired rambler
I'm a nomad
Maybe I'm the chosen Son
The one who walks alone and offers salvation
Maybe I'm no one
The music and the vocal expression gloss over the disconnect, but it still tweaks me a bit.

The other tracks are closer to Three Years in Carolina without rehashing the same musical ground, from the outlaw country of Love Something Too Much to the barroom autobiographical Drink One More. The songs are catchy and fresh. The band's attitude is also fresh and earnest, reflecting well on the name of their personal record label, 100% Records.

The only misstep is the goofy title track. Yawnin' In the Dawnin' is a brief a capella ditty somewhere between old time sing-along and barbershop. The press release explains that it's a morning wake up song their father would sing. That answers the question of why it's there, but it's still an acquired taste.

Give Barry a listen or drop by their Facebook page. I'll be interested to hear more of their music in the future.

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