WHILE the term southern rock normally brings to mind the likes of the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchett and 38 Special, to name but a few, there are other bands whose sounds encompasses much of the genre's intricate qualities while at the same time highlighting their own particular identity too.
One such band is The Barlow, who are based in Denver and like to call their particular brand of raucous rock ‘n’ roll, ‘Colorado Country’.
The band is composed of Shea Boynton (vocals/guitar/banjo), Troy Scoope (bass), Ben Richter (drums) and Brad Johnson (guitar/vocals) and they have just released their third album, ‘New Year, Old Me’.
Commenting on the album Boynton said: “New Year, Old Me’, is a nod to those who never change, for better or worse.”
He said the songs are mostly based on personal experiences and as a statement of intent the record is a definite step towards the band firmly establishing its sound.
“Instead of comparing things to others sound and style, we aimed to make it our own,” he said.
On listening to the album it’s apparent that they succeeded in that regard.
Combining Americana, outlaw country and guitar-heavy southern rock into songs that are as rugged as the band's Denver home the band has created a formidable showcase on ‘New Year, Old Me’.
‘Mile Marker Blues’ gets things going and is a lazy, mid-tempo laid back rocker. It boasts hints of old school country and is set to a slight rock ‘n’ roll rhythm. The subtle walking bass lines are very effective and enhance the inherent rock ‘n’ roll feel of the song.
Boynton is blessed with the type of voice that is tonally appealing while possessing a lonesome quality that is compelling.
‘Josephine’ keeps up the rock ‘n’ roll undertones and is slightly more up-tempo than the opener. The overall sound of the band is very interesting. There is a lovely warmth to the sound and the bottom end in particular is very full and rounded.
Lyrically, the songs on the album are relayed very much in story-teller fashion and that’s highlighted in an exemplary way on this particular track.
There is a lovely change to the rhythm at the two minute mark and although it’s subtle, it paves the way perfectly for the lead break which in turn leads into a very effective breakdown before the song continues towards its natural conclusion.
‘All My Days’ embraces a more traditional, alt-country path and steps things up a little tempo-wise compared to the preceding tracks.
The arrangement is excellent and the accompaniment has wonderful individual little riffs and licks in place to make repeated listens very worthwhile.
‘Heart in a Sling’ keeps the spirit of old school country very much alive but it still has all the hallmarks of The Barlow’s sound.
The electric guitar sound is wonderfully clear and invokes images of a Fender Telecaster through the likes of Fender Twin Reverb.
When country music is performed well it’s one of the greatest genres in the world and The Barlow are exponents from the very top drawer.
The album’s title track is as down-home as a Dixie hoedown and the overall vibe of the track is upbeat.
The arrangement is brilliant and the electric rhythm guitar has just enough grit to give the song an edge while at the same time retaining strong commercial appeal.
There is an excellent breakdown around three-quarters-of-the-way through where the bass and drums embrace the spotlight to underscore the vocals.
The chorus is also fantastic and very memorable.
‘Tarred’ is one of the most thought-provoking songs on the album and lyrically offers up a very personal anecdote of lament. The chorus is extremely effective and the backing vocals are excellent.
In complete contrast, ‘Obsessions’, bears a certain degree of menace from the off and takes things down a more sinister path than anything else that preceded it. There is an excellent bluesy quality to the song that is very appealing
‘Bad Ol’ Days’ is perhaps, the standout track on the album. Its infectious rhythm and melody immediately grab the attention. It has the instant appeal that one associates with the likes of Blackberry Smoke or Blackstone Cherry and the descending bass line and chord pattern halfway through the chorus is a showcase example of exceptional song-writing arrangement. The penultimate track, ‘Without Emotion’, takes things down the hillbilly country rock path. It’s another example of the band’s versatility and paves the way perfectly for the album closer, the appropriately titled country rocker, ‘Shut It Down’. If outlaw country is your genre of choice this album won’t disappoint