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The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers

(Secret City; US: 27 Sep 2011; UK: 27 Sep 2011)

The Barr Brothers are a musical collective built around brothers Brad and Andrew Barr. Brad sings and plays various guitars, keyboards and bass, while Andrew focuses on percussion. Sarah Page contributes harp and hammered dulcimer sounds, while a crew of guest musicians add everything from contrabass to violin to clarinet.  The good news is that out of all this stew comes a record which is at times powerful, as on the jerky, anxious “Give the Devil Back His Heart” or the mournful opener “Beggar in the Morning”. “The Devil’s Harp” benefits from an ethereal tune and Brad’s best Leonard Cohen impersonation, while “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying” pairs the vocals with a scratchy electric guitar sound that would not be out of place on a Black Keys album.

The news isn’t all good, though. When the band settles into hyper-mellow folk troubadour mode, the results can be underwhelming, as with “Ooh, Belle” or the somnambulant “Cloud (for Lhasa)”. Fortunately, these missteps are fewer than the more sure-footed moments, such as the quietly rousing “Deacon’s Son”, but they happen often enough to render The Barr Brothers only a qualified success.


DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.

The Barr Brothers - Lord I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'
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