Returned to his native Leeds after a lengthy sojourn in America. Barrett doesn’t make it easy for you to discover him, having no website other than Facebook from which to elicit any background or biographical information, and the About page hasn’t been updated since his 2014 release. Suffice to say, the thumbnail sketch declares he mostly plays 12 string, that he mixes original and traditional material and draws on traditional British. Irish and American influences as well as 50s pop.
Apparently this is his ninth album and duly follows the above description, although the addition of banjo would seem to be something fairly new, the songs mostly rooted in in Yorkshire, vis a vis the Appalachian-styled bluegrassy title track (historians will recall the Wars of the Roses) which, aforementioned banjo providing the drive, harks back to his childhood.
Turning to the sprightly fingerpicked acoustic, ‘Last Of The Yorkshire Outlaws’ is musically cast in the rambling blues Guthrie tradition and takes its inspiration from musicians like himself playing shows to a handful of dedicated drinkers in the local bars. The title does, however, also link to the traditional banjo-plucked ‘Robin Hood and the 15 Foresters’, a Child ballad about the folk legend outlaw who, while forever associated with Nottingham, is claimed by many scholars to have actually come from Sheffield.
It’s one of only three traditional numbers, the others being the guitar waltzing ‘Waters Of Tyne’ (Jamie Barrier on fiddle) and ‘Holmfirth Anthem’, learned, respectively from The Dransfields and the Watersons, the latter finding him dipping his toes into a capella waters for the first time, returning to the unaccompanied style (after the acoustic guitar intro) for the album’s closing number, ‘Darling Where You Are’, another rambling lyric about how, wherever he may roam, he always with his lover.
Continuing with the self-penned tracks, ‘Bonaparte’s Love Song’ is actually a banjo showcase instrumental, its mountain music shadings also to be heard on ‘I Don’t Need To Wait For Heaven’, an Appalachian-toned folk spiritual about finding contentment, and the sprightly ‘Everybody Needs A Helping Hand’ which, exactly what it says on the label, is about how the faces people present in public might hide problems that keep to themselves.
Back on guitar, the strummed ‘Tennessee Line’ with its slide echoes has a vague American shanty air, accentuated by presence of fiddle, the song a celebration of the “rednecks, hicks and such” who carve out an existence on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, and who’ve “always been the subject of sick people’s jokes”.
However, the album’s stand out is arguably ‘Bramhope Tunnel Monument’, another banjo-driven number (bringing together Yorkshire history and Appalachian music) with scurrying hand percussion commissioned in memory of the 24 workers who, between 1846 and 1849, died during the construction of the railway tunnel on the Harrogate line.
A gifted player and songwriter, Barrett clearly has a lot to say, both musically and lyrically, he just needs to be a little more proactive in getting people to hear it.
It has been a while since we posted a video wall but some goodies have been arriving recently. A few are related to upcoming releases and some are just for fun.
We begin with Serious Sam Barrett and an unofficial taster for his new album Where The White Roses Grow which will be reviewed here very soon. This is a live take on the title track.
From another album that will be reviewed soon, this is Mandolin Orange and ‘The Wolves’ from the album Tides Of A Teardrop.
Skinny Lister’s new album The Story Is… will be released on March 1st. This is the official video of the title track.
We have already reviewed Anne Marie Almedal’s album Lightshadow. Here’s her version of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’.
We will always review an album from the mighty Breabach. Here’s the single, ‘Birds Of Passage’, from their most recent album Frenzy Of The Meeting.
We missed this one when it was released last year but it’s a song that deserves a hearing. Tommy Ashby sings ‘Bowlegged’.
Seeing that Richard Thompson is our top solo artist of 2018 – Charlie Foskett thought he’d post you this Thompson penned piece of sadness from his forthcoming debut folk album collection Bugles And Bagpipes – www.foskettsfolkfactory.com – It’s almost completed and hosts many high profile guests whose magical, musical input you are just going to love – including Peter Knight and Rick Kemp (ex Steeleye) – Aidan Burke (cousin of Kevin Burke – Bothy Band and Ireland’s number celtic fiddler for the last 22 yrs – Julie Felix (duet) – Simon Care (Albion Band ) – Chris Spedding – Wizz Jones – Mike Wilson and Damian Barber (Demon Barbers) – Judie Tzuke and more !
The official album launch will be early summer 2019 along with a big, big promo campaign and tour to follow with his newly formed band The Pitmatics! – www.pitmatics.co.uk
I originally recorded and produced the first version of ‘Nothing at the End of the Rainbow’ in 1986 with Elvis Costello – I was working with Elvis and Loudon Wainright III on other material at the time for EMI Records – I remember receiving a cracker review saying that I had produced “A Song to Slit one’s Wrists to” ! that was the headline – nothing’s changed there then! This, my own version also features Peter Knight on fiddle!
Mostly for fun now. Here are our old mates Merry Hell and ‘My Finest Hour’ from their album Anthems To The Wind. A wonderful euphemism.