Real-Deal Observational and Heartfelt Country Rock
I was taken wholeheartedly by surprise last year with Bobbo Byrnes last album, Two Sides To This Town; so was giddily excited last week when this arrived.
While not a million miles away in context; Red Wheelbarrow has a much louder and rockier feel than I remembered; but that’s far from being a hardship; as good quality Country Rock has always been welcome around these here parts.
Opening track Look For It is the first song to combine the very best of Country AND Rock; plus there’s a pseudo-political message that he delivers with with great self-assurance; and as Byrnes himself sings;
“I might rant and I might rave
I might piss off half this room
But you know down deep
Below my Skin
I bleed the same as you.”
There’s certainly enough Twang here to satisfy anyone who has ever worn Wranglers and a Stetson; but it’s clear that Byrnes isn’t expecting any invitations from either the CMA or AMA to their Awards ceremonies; this is the music he wants to play and as he himself says; it’s the opposite of the Country and Rock music you hear on the radio.
Sally Starr might even be Indie-Country; if such a thing existed and Mrs. What’s His Name is a twisted love song that straddles Country and Folk-Rock with carefree abandon and really deserves plays on Independent radio, as does Part-Time Cowboy which sounds like a theme tune for the majority of acts I love and listen to in my office; and some days it may even be about me.
Speaking of ‘TWANG’ as I did earlier, Byrnes delivers a fabulous Countryfried ‘driving song’ with Looking at the World Through a Windshield that is one part Little Feet, two parts Commander Cody and a fourth part adrenaline!
It’s not really the biggest surprise in the world when I discover many of the 30/40 year old acts I write about are ex-punks; and sometimes they twist their favourite songs into their albums; but who knew Bobbo Byrnes was an Art-School Rocker????
How else do you explain the amazing cover of Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain ……. and it even has Phil Manzsanera guesting on guitar! 10/10 to all concerned.
Just for the Hell of it I was going to make that my Favourite Song; but in fairness there are a couple of others that are more deserving of the title as they are more representative of Bobbo Byrnes exceptional ‘sound’; the runner-up is the superb Lovers; originally by a band called Five Easy Pieces. A relatively simple concept for a writer of this quality; but sometimes less is more; and the melody and construction combine to make a thing of rare beauty.
But the accolade actually goes to the mystical John Prine song Mexican Home; which sounds like the kind of song Van Morrison should have written when he went through his Country phase; and if Bruce wants a song to cover on his impending WESTERN STARS tour, this will fit in like a delicate hand into a velvet glove.
He’s been around a long time and I only wish I’d discovered Bobbo Byrnes in one of his earlier guises; but I didn’t so I shall just wallow in these two albums.
# “I have a tattoo of a red wheelbarrow on my left arm and a lot of people ask me why. Well it all goes back to a poem by William Carlos Williams called The Red Wheelbarrow. I can’t type in the sixteen words that make up the poem but it can be found here.
It’s a short but important poem that starts with “So much depends upon” and here’s the thing – all he is doing is describing a scene but the scene doesn’t exist until the poet says it exists and in that what he is actually saying is “All art depends upon”. Because here’s the thing – all art is dependent upon one thing and that is the actual doing of it.
You’ll always hear someone say things like “I could’ve written that” or “I could’ve painted that” but they didn’t. Do your art, whatever it is and in the words of Andy Warhol – “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Bobbo Byrnes.
Released 11th October 2019