I first met a couple of the guys from Barrelhouse at a Charlie Musselwhite concert sponsored by the River City Blues Society. You’ve probably heard Henry and I mention the River City Blues Society on Time For The Blues; they’re good folks and heavily support the blues in the area. If you’re nearby Richmond, please check them out and if you find their offerings to your liking then by all means support them by joining and attending their shows.
If you’re not in the Richmond area, find your nearest blues society and join, and if there is no blues society nearby – start one! Getting people together that share your interest in the blues can only enhance your life.
Soapbox time over, time to get back to my story.
Barrelhouse is a local blues band; hard driving and dedicated to their craft. When we first met, they had won a contest to appear at The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. Not too shabby for guys who’ve only been playing together for a few years.
The band consists of Stuart Hutton on percussion, Nat Hyman on slide guitar and vocals, Brandon Martin on lead guitar and vocals, Tom Mayer plays harmonica and adds vocals, and Jimmy Zednik plays bass.
They provided us with some demo tracks they had recorded live and both Henry and I like their sound a lot and played one or two to celebrate their trip to Memphis. Flash forward a bit and now they are out with their very first CD, strangely enough entitled Barrelhouse, which you can get at the band’s shows and a few other outlets. I managed to score a review copy and I’m happy to report that the promise they showed then is delivered upon now.
In other words, it’s a good CD and one I think you’ll enjoy.
The CD kicks off with Won’t Be Long, a driving, train-influenced number that lets you know right off the bat that this is going to be a high energy ride. This would drive a crowd crazy at a live show and Hutton’s drums keep the song running. Cold Woman starts off with some serious choppy guitar licks and pulls you deep into the swamp. Mayer’s harp gets a good workout on this number.
Shot of Blues is a solid work that draws on a lot of blues influences. This one will be featured on Time For The Blues shortly – guaranteed. Anybody that’s ever gone into a drinking establishment like Professor Johnny P’s Juke Joint has had this feeling and the boys capture it nicely here. Martin’s guitar and Mayer’s harp add a lot to this side.
Iced Tea starts off slow, soft and plaintive but builds quickly. The band shows its control of the material and the change of pace is welcome. Don’t Be Surprised moves back into rocking territory quickly. Must Have Been The Shine is interesting as it melds country style lyrics with hard driving blues rock music. The result is very cool.
Have You Got Love is another song that probably incites a live crowd. Blistering guitar licks go toe to toe with Mayer’s harp. Next up is Easy Come, Easy Go a title many of have identified with over the years. This is a gritty number and the gravel voiced vocals add a dark feeling.
Then there’s the warning song, Young Man, which is sort of like warning a bull by waving a red flag in his face. Listen for Martin’s guitar work especially when he starts trading off with Hyman. The CD closes out with Blue Eyes, a story of a woman with the blues.
It’s a solid effort from start to finish, with some flashes of brilliance and promises of great things to come. It’s a great traveling CD and I’ll be playing it back and forth from Jordan’s Branch to Richmond. Maybe I can even convince these guys to come out to the Juke Joint and play a set or two.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Barrelhouse, you can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/barrelhouse or on the web at BarrelhouseRVA.com. You can get all the information about upcoming shows and snag your own copy of their CD, because I’m not letting go of mine.
(Photo provided by Barrelhouse, so blame them if you don’t like it. Course, if you do like it, I’ll take the credit…)