THE HIGH BAR GANG
True North Records
The debut recording from the Vancouver-based High Bar Gang drew from gospel. As their liner notes state, this new recording takes you “down a dark road” focusing on “heartache and the mournfulness of regret.” There are 13 tracks, all of them covers. “Don’t This Road Look Rough And Rocky,” “Cold, Rain And Snow,” “She’s More To Be Pitied,” “Twenty-Twenty Vision,” “Rock Salt And Nails,” and “I Still Miss Someone” are standards. Roy Acuff’s “Branded Wherever I Go” and Bill Monroe’s “One I Love Is Gone” are familiar, but more obscure. “Jailer, Jailer” by Peter Rowan, “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart,” an adaptation of Hank Williams by Norah Jones, and “Long Lonesome Highway Blues” from Steve Earle are of more recent vintage.
Regardless of source or recognition, they are indeed all songs with a sorrowful outlook, but many are top-notch songs done well with nice arrangements. While you might not look to the themes of these songs for a psychological lift, there is no doubt that the songs themselves, along with the performances of the High Bar Gang, have an absorbing, involving power about them. Funny how that works. Gloom can be entertainment.
You might think that with seven band members, the sound of the band would be thick. That’s not the case. Having extra members just gives them the opportunity to mix and match. They can have a mesmerizing all-female trio as they do on “Don’t This Road…” and several others. They can switch off between five varied and distinctive lead singers or five who play guitar or three who play mandolin or two who can handle the bass. It’s all about options and creating good music, which they do on what is, in spite of the “dark” themes, a very good recording. (www.truenorthrecords.com)BW