MICHAEL BARNETT, ONE SONG ROMANCE
Compass Records 4624
Virtuosity is its own reward. When achieved, it swirls about and spins a spell over the listener, drawing them in and whirling them through the thrill of it all. Barnett speaks with three voices here; his songs, his fiddle, and his voice. He’s accompanied by his former bandmates from the Deadly Gentlemen. A long list of notables including Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, Aoife O’Donovan, Tim O’Brien, and Sarah Jarosz also show up to help out on this fine effort. Rushad Eggleston appears on the great swing tune “Dig, Dig, Dig” playing cello and singing. David Grier and Paul Kowert pop up here and there, as well, on guitar and bass respectively.
Barnett wrote every piece here and they range from quasi-old-time to swing with some heavy pop influences. The opening track, “I’ll Be Alright,” will make you tilt your head and say, ‘Haven’t I heard this before?’ Perhaps, but the pop sensibilities embodied in this piece reflect a Paul Simon/Beatlesque approach that lend it a timeless quality. The next cut, “Change Her Mind,” featuring Tim O’Brien on vocals is the essence of the neo-old-time music that is typical of much of his work over the years. “Raindrops And Puddles” is a wonderful waltz that feels like April and the early warmth of a new season. The writing across the project is exemplary. We are back in that modern Pop art song genre with “It Wasn’t Meant to Be That Way,” while “More Strangs” and “New Barnes” are straight-ahead bluegrass instrumental romps with powerful picking. Barnett writes great waltzes and the last cut (title cut) is another fine example of this skill.
It’s rare that such fine music is so fully realized. Each piece is well-constructed. The performances are of the highest caliber and each individual here performs with great acumen. There is not one bad cut—nothing but virtuosity here on so many levels. This is the new direction that acoustic music formerly known as bluegrass is taking, incorporating a new level of sophistication and depth that reflects these times. The structure of this music and levels of engagement are far more complex than the old hillbilly music of the first generation, but would not exist without that footing. This is great music of this time, right now, today.(Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)RCB