I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of The Barker Band before this album turned up…and it’s their sixth. They come from west London and the founding Barkers are twins Sam and Jake and their father Lenny who, sadly, died before the record was completed. The twins wrote ‘Don’t Fear The End’ in his memory.
I find it sad and surprising that a band this good has been around so long without coming to wider attention. That said, they have played Glastonbury and this record is already in The Daily Telegraph’s list of top folk music albums of the year so maybe it’s just here in the sticks that the word hasn’t got out. Their style is classic folk-rock blended with bluegrass thanks to Sam Barker’s banjo and Simon Cohen’s fiddle – up-tempo and energetic with the Barkers’ strong harmonies supporting lead vocalist Nella Johnson. I bet they’re a storming live act.
There are some cracking songs here, notably ‘The Fishing Song’ – The Barkers do have a thing about seafaring songs – which comes in two parts, the first of which is gorgeous and stately and is followed by what sounds like barely controlled rage at the loss of a boat and her crew. Then there is ‘Holy Word’, a sort of anti-gospel song and a really clever idea. ‘Polly’ epitomises the bluegrass elements of the band’s music; a rolling banjo murder ballad and that’s followed by ‘Cry, Cry, Cry’ which is pretty much a Cajun two-step. It all sounds so very natural, whatever they do.
The Land We Hold Dear is a record I enjoyed instinctively when I first heard it – I really didn’t want to subject it to analysis but “this is good, go out and listen” doesn’t actually constitute a review.
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Artists’ website: www.barkerband.com
‘You Took The Best Of Me’ live: