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Friday, 7 September 2012

Meet 'Barley Station'

Barley Station is one of those rare double-fronted bands whose music combines the roots of Americana, Pop/Rock, Country, and Folk and puts them in a blender with a dash of amaretto pouring out a tasty glass of contagious sound! The result is a distinctly alternative blend that draws deeply from its roots yet looks forward and to the future.  Barley Station's front line is a duo composed of singers/songwriters, Randy Wayne Belt, and Brian Kious. They are backed by drummer Nil De Silva and their music reflects the influences and roots of the musicians/writers who are products of the crossroads of music in St. Louis, MO in the USA.

The group has done interviews with radio and magazines, including an extensive interview with the Entertainment Vine, numerous radio interviews, and has been featured and performed live on FOX 2 News in their home base area of St. Louis, MO.

Their debut album "After All" was released on Feb 29, 2012 and has been in the top 40 in the Country/Alt. genre for four consecutive months (including two months in the top 10) on the APD Global Radio Indicator Charts TM.  The album has appeared on the Missouri State’s Roots Music Charts, and on the CMJ reporting stations that have added songs into rotation, those songs broke through the top 30 by the second week. The group is currently touring in the United States to support “After All” with dates planned in all over the country.

I was thrilled when they asked me to review the album ‘After All’, so I began with their first track, ‘Dream you lost’. This opened with a steady guitar rhythm, which then built up with the use of vocals. Here there was a beautiful tone and diction with the vocals, which was lovely to listen to. The instrumentation continued to build up, including a great use of backing vocals. What I liked with the progression of this song was the change in rhythm for the second verse, as this added variation to the entire song; here, the bass line was great to listen to. The instrumental solo was also nice to listen to, as it was simple but effective. I also loved how this song seemed to have a cyclical structure; ending with the same acoustic motif it opened with.

Next on the track list was ‘True’. This opened again with acoustic guitar which then built up. What surprised me here was the use of a harmonica. I found this to be a fantastic edition to the instrumentation. The vocal line here was quite simple, but also effective. I particularly liked the softer vocal tone which I found quite soothing to listen to. This was coupled with the use of backing vocals, which I heard elongating certain words during the chorus to make a descending vocal motif. This was a great feature.

I then listened to ‘I found you’, and found this be a more pop-like song, with the use of electric guitar. This song seemed to me to be slightly ska-orientated due to the rhythm incorporated. However, it was still great to listen to. I liked the use of call and response with a female vocalist in the chorus alongside other backing vocals. The guitar solo again was simple, but effective. What also surprised me with this piece is after the solo, the female vocalist takes the lead, which highlighted the beautiful tone she had to offer. This was a fantastic song to listen to.

The next track that followed was ‘Can’t sleep for venus’, which had a soft opening with a much softer instrumentation using drums and bass, which began to build up. The bass line here was great. Again, the chorus had good backing vocals. I loved how the second verse had a different drum beat; as this added variation to the song. The use of backing harmonies in the instrumental was also great, and I could also hear an interesting effect on guitar, which added to the “country” idiom this band had adopted. I also loved the sense of an ending, as the song seemed to come to a close. Instead this was a false ending to lead into the chorus again, which worked really well.

‘Abilene’ was the next track I listened to. I found myself immediately tapping my foot to the steady guitar opening, and I loved how the vocal rhythm slightly matched the guitar as this worked well in not only syncing together, but also highlighting the team work of the band. The use of backing vocals in the second verse were at a higher pitch to main vocalist; another interesting feature. I loved the use of piano with this song, a feature not heard in the other songs. The instrumentation began to build up as the song progressed, creating a sense of forward momentum. Contrastingly, the instrumentation came to a close in the final verse to emphasise the soft vocals, which again were great to listen to.

The track that followed was ‘After all’, another song that was more suited to the popular genre. The opening was fantastic; I really enjoyed listened to the guitar motif alongside the bass guitar; it was really good to listen to. Once again, the backing vocals sounded fantastic. What I loved about this piece was how it slowed down near the middle to provide a contrasting section. The bass guitar rhythm was fantastic alongside a fresh guitar motif. The ending reflected the teamwork of the band due to the extremely tight cut offs, before returning to the previous motif shown in the beginning of the song.

I then listened to ‘Want it to be’. The tone of the guitar here was lovely to listen to. I loved the balance between the acoustic guitar for the main rhythm alongside the electric guitar providing alternative motifs. The vocals were beautiful in the chorus, and I loved the use of pitch bending with the backing vocals; an unusual, but good feature. I also liked the use of a tambourine, extending the fantastic instrumentation adopted with this song. There was a great sense of passion evident with the lead vocalist in this song, especially the high notes that were also at perfect pitch. I also liked the slower sections of this song, as the vocals were a lot softer and thus really soothing to listen to

The next track was ‘Kitty Kat’, of which the opening reminded me of the popular song ‘Don’t look back in Anger’. I particularly liked the use of call and response between the electric and acoustic guitar which worked well. This song seemed to have a different vocalist which added variation to the entire album. Nevertheless, there was great diction of the vocals, alongside a great use of backing vocals. I enjoyed listening to this song; whilst it was simple in terms of rhythm and structure, it worked well in providing an enjoyable song to listen to.

I found myself tapping my foot to the funky drum beat evident in the song ‘Common Knowledge’. Here there was an interesting chord sequence that seemed to be descending, but this still worked really well. The guitar rhythm seemed to change in the second verse, to become syncopated. The middle section was also fantastic with the use of harmonies and funky drum fills.

Another funky track in terms of rhythm with the guitar was ‘Cobalt Blue’. Again, there was an interesting use of pitch bend with backing vocals in the bridge and chorus, which added variation to the using of backing vocals. I loved the great diction evident with the higher notes of the vocalist; the pitch was perfect here. I also liked the use of echo on the main vocal line, adding fabulous variation. Once again, teamwork was evident with the really tight cut offs with the ending.

I then listened to ‘Last Nashville Rose’. This song opened with little instrumentation which provided contrast to the other songs. This instrumentation began to build up as the song progressed. I really liked the addition of a funky bass line, and also the use of the backing vocals ascending in volume.

The final track I listened to was ‘Close to One’, which opened with a funky guitar motif alongside a funky drum beat. The pitch of the vocals and backing vocals were great, especially with the high notes. I also liked the simple but effective guitar instrumental motif which continued not only as backing in the second verse, but as a solo towards the end of the song.

After listening to the entire album, I can’t help but agree with Leicester Bangs (UK) in saying that Barley Station “blend alternative country and rootsy folk-rock into a style that has all the pop appeal of the classic Jayhawks records, but remains earthy and resolutely unpolished.” I highly recommend you check this band out if you enjoy this style of music.

Contact details for Barley Station:

Thanks for reading this review. I would also like to thank my viewers and followers for getting me to 1000 page views. Whilst that number may seem small compared to popular blogs, it means a lot that I have gotten this far with 'Tom Wardman's Music Reviews'. I would also like to note that my posting schedule may change after I enroll to university in a few weeks, but I will no doubt post about that to update you guys.

See you at the next review - Tom.

1 comment:

  1. Barley Station RAWKS! can hear that snare drum 3 states away!!