CD Review: The Barn Birds – The Barnbirds (Waterbug, 2013)
The Barn Birds are singer-songwriter-guitarist Jonathan Byrd, and singer-songwriter-fiddler Chris Kokesh. Each was well established individually on the folk festival circuit when they met and began working together several years ago. Their debut as a duo was written primarily by Byrd with collaborators (Anais Mitchell, Chris Kokesh, Anthony da Costa, Amy Speace, Luke Dick and Carey West), but they’re paired equally as duet singers, and Kokesh’s fiddle often adds a third melodic voice. Recorded live in a single day with sparse backing, the music is surprisingly rich. The instruments spend most of their time supporting the duo’s vocals; the voices meld together into the magical new voice of a well-realized duet. Kokesh adds a few well-placed solos, such as the drowsy sixteen bars of “It’s Too late to Call it a Night,” but the focus remains primarily on the singing, whether in harmony, unison, or in the cappella breakdown of “Desert Rose.” The music is folk and country, with an old-timey sound for the sweet “Sundays Loving You” and gypsy-jazz fiddle and rhythm guitar on “One Night at a Time.” This is a wonderfully unassuming album, laid down by two closely connected musical souls who’ve let us eavesdrop on their conversation.