Any musician who when given the opportunity to describe his work uses one word—"art"—is someone who not only has a command of the impact of language, but a sense of humor about his ability.
But brevity does not characterize other people's descriptions of Austin, Texas,-based Danny Barnes' talent on the banjo. In the advance publicity of Barnes' album "Pizza Box," musician Dave Matthews said it's his favorite new music, favorite rock record and favorite country record.
"From the first time he sat down and played me 'Road', I knew his next record was going to be great, but I didn't expect this," Matthews stated. "The music is smart and soulful, and the lyrics are profound. It is heaven and earth. It is Americana, from the back porch to the pulpit, shattered dreams on angel's wings. I can't stop listening. In the haze of over-produced, 'perfect' recordings, Danny Barnes spent less than two weeks banging out an album that may well save your soul."
'One' from Danny Barnes' latest release 'Rocket' is currently featured on the Acoustic Café.
The track appears on Segment 5 for the week of 11/14/11-11/20/11 in show #879, alongside Peter Gabriel, Dawes, Bruce Springsteen, Ani Difranco, and Glen Campbell (among others.) View the entire playlist and listen to it from the acafe.com website.
Danny Barnes will be featured on etown.org for two consecutive weeks along with Cake and Eliza Gilkyson.
Show #1146 aires on November 16, 2011 and show #1147 airs on November 23. Be sure to tune in starting next week at this link.
Those who have heard Danny Barnes' 2010 album Pizza Box may be forgiven if they initially assume that Rocket was recorded during the same sessions. Using almost the same studio team, Rocket features Barnes on his requisite banjo, Barnjo (a six-string solid-body electric banjo), various guitars, loops, voices, basses, keyboards, and assorted programming. He reunites with producer John Alagia and drummer Matt Chamberlain -- even Dave Matthews returns on backing vocals for the album's first single, a righteous cover of T. Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)." The only new member of Rocket's ensemble is keyboardist and occasional bassist Zac Rae. There is a solid argument to be made for this, of course: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." With the exception of the woolly cover of the T. Rex tune, Barnes wrote all the material here using his trademark wiseacre, gallows sense of humor. That said, the other 11 songs here are all winners musically. Opener "Poison," beginning with dubbed-in television or radio evangelist chatter, is the natural companion piece to "Charlie" on Pizza Box. It's the similarly narrated affair of a dope-abusing, alcoholic ex-con. It begins gently enough but kicks into bone-crunching riffery on the chorus. Barnes is as comfortable in the role of a rocker as he was a bluegrass musician in the Bad Livers. Check "Soulcrusher, a strutting, swaggering lead-in to the T. Rex number. Likewise, "Rich Boy Blues" is a funkier, fuzzed-out space rocker with only Barnes' understated vocals holding the track on the rails. Some tracks that begin in American roots banjo traditions (e.g., "Wine") eventually evolve as uptempo intense vampy rockers with singalong choruses adding to the party-til-you-puke ethos. The two closing numbers, "One" and "Safe with Me," break that mold significantly. The former uses some bluegrass licks before transitioning into a spacy groover and the latter is a gorgeous trippy Americana love song with a lilting melody and poetic homespun lyrics. Ultimately, Rocket, like its predecessor, reveals not only that Barnes is a fine songwriter and instrumentalist but -- all these years on from the Bad Livers -- that he's matured into a musical tour de force.
Danny Barnes has been around. He and The Bad Livers made a bunch of records and helped Keep Austin (and the rest of the country) Weird for most of the 90's. This trio of acoustic musicians led by Mr. Barnes, a banjo player, opened for the Butthole Surfers on an early tour. BS member Paul Leary produced their first record, and the punk crowd took them in when the acoustic crowd didn't know what to do with them.
Danny Barnes has come to redefine the banjo's perceived image in an eclectic career for which genre definitions have merely been a polite suggestion. From his early days as the driving force behind the impressive Austin-based Bad Livers, a band of pioneering Americana missionaries, through a prolific solo career and the development of his trademark 'folkTronics' project, a startling approach that incorporates digital technology and various effect pedals to stretch the tonal range of the instrument, Barnes has always listened to his proudly offbeat inner voice.
On 'Rocket', Barnes continues to push the envelop and reinvent the wheel with the creation of the 'Barnjo 15,000'; a prototype of a hard body electric banjo with pickups that allow him to showcase his love for rock and roll, and his passion for melding genres together in a style that is quite frankly, all of his own making.
Fans who pre-order the album will automatically be entered to win a super deluxe grand prize including a custom Danny Barnes model Bishline banjo, a skateboard with custom Danny Barnes artwork, an Estes E-Kit Model Rocket, a t-shirt with album art, an old-school cassette boom box, and an immediate download of 'Angel' (an solo acoustic banjo recording of the album with vocals). As part of the release, ATO is making three configurations of the album available; studio (CD), solo acoustic banjo with vocals (CD), and demos (cassette). For additional details, please visit: www.dannybarnes.com
Barnes' cover of T-Rex's "Get It On (Bang A Gong)" is the lead single from 'Rocket', goes to radio this week, with Dave Matthews on background vocals on. Matthews, a longtime fan of Barnes, signed him to his label, New York-based ATO Records. The album was produced by John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Jason Mraz) and features Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, David Bowie, T Bone Burnett) on drums.
According to Matthews, 'Rocket' is my favorite new music...the music is smart and soulful, and the lyrics are profound. It is heaven and earth. It is Americana, from the back porch to the pulpit, shattered dreams on angels' wings. I can't stop listening. In the haze of over produced, 'perfect' recordings, Danny Barnes spent less than two weeks banging out an album that may well save your soul."
With 'Rocket', Barnes spins tales of American life like a latter-day John Steinbeck, wielding banjo and pen with equal effect, and the character of his voice as the perfect mouthpiece to truly bring these songs and stories to life. 'Rocket' comes stuffed with sharp hooks and addictive vocal and instrumental melodies, but it's Barnes' skills as a storyteller that shine strong. He tells tales with the wry wit and humor of Garrison Keilor, the lyrical eccentricities and intellect of Randy Newman, performed with the southern twang and swagger of Levon Helm. Barnes combines and blends all of these elements into a style that is uniquely his own.
The list of artists he has performed alongside is as eclectic as his music and includes Bela Fleck, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Government Mule, Bill Frisell and members of the Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys and Ministry. Barnes is prominently featured on two tracks on Dave Matthews Band's latest Grammy nominated album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. Rocket will be officially available at all digital and physical retailers on November 8th, 2011.
The track listing is as follows:
5) Soul Crusher
6) Bang A Gong (Get It On)
9) Rich Boy Blues
Look through Larry Keel's discography and it's easy to see that the Virginia-based flat picking guitarist is fond of jamming with others.
He has made albums with several different groups, individual acts and his family.
Now, he's making music with banjoist Danny Barnes.
The duo, along with Keel's wife Jenny on bass, play at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain, N.C.
“I love being able to present something new to the crowd,” Keel said. “Mixing it up keeps it fun for the crowd and for myself.”
He and Barnes met up several years ago at the Northwest String Summit Music Festival and have played together on several occasions.
Keel is a big fan of Barnes' music.
“I love a chance to play music with Danny Barnes, I tell ya. He's just the newest, greatest songwriter that I've heard,” Keel said.
“Danny is one of a kind, entirely. He's an amazing banjo player, and completely different from Bela Fleck or Tony Trischka or any of them. His song writing, I don't know, he's like the new John Hartford, I think.”
Their music, Keel said, comes from different sides but “we think it makes for a very interesting show.”
While they don't have a project together, they do have some songs worked up and ready to share. They'll send us other material, then get together a few days before gigs to work up the songs and work on other music.
Adding Keel's wife, Jenny, is a perfect accompaniment to Keel and Barnes.
“It rounds everything out really full and gives people something they can understand with the hard-driving bass beat up in there and a lot of harmony singing as well,” Keel said. “It rounds things out perfectly.”
Keel is one of the top acoustic flat pickers performing today. He'll pick up a banjo or mandolin on occasion, but loves playing his guitar.
It's not his only love, though. Keel is just as comfortable catching fish as he is snagging new fans.
“I fish for everything,” he said. “Every kind of trout. I do a lot of bass fishing on rivers and lakes. I get out to the salt waters as much as I can. I try to cover all the bases that way.
“Sometimes, depending upon where we are playing if there's a good lake or pond or river nearby and we have enough time, I'll try to get out and hit the water.”
Alternative folk rocker Danny Barnes toiled over his electric guitar at the New Orleans Jazz Fest this afternoon, earning praise for his agile fingers from both longtime fans and first-time listeners.
The muscles in Barnes' tattooed arms flexed and his stringy blonde hair hung in his face as he worked to crank out songs like "Caveman" for an audience gathered in the shade around the Lagniappe Stage.
Barnes, who teamed with a drummer for today's performance, is known for his unusual innovations on the banjo and collaboration with Dave Matthews, who is featured on Barnes' album "Pizza Box." Barnes is also known for heading the now-defunct acoustic punk-rock band the Bad Livers.
Brian Kelley of Fond du Lac, Wis., said he owns all of Barnes' albums, but today marked his first time experiencing a live performance by the banjo and guitar player.
"He's a virtuoso," said Brian Kelley of Fond du Lac, Wis. "I've never seen a guy's fingers move faster on the frets."
Kelley said he also likes Barnes' voice, particularly his "twang factor."
Kelley, who attended Jazz Fest with a group of friends from other parts of the country, said Barnes and John Mooney & Bluesiana formed the main attractions for him.
Pam Pacelli of Davis, Calif., said she and her husband, Mike Harty, discovered Barnes while researching Jazz Fest acts online.
"I heard him, and I thought he sounded interesting," Pacelli said, adding that she liked the pairing of Barnes with the drummer. "I like the way they work together."
Like others, Harty expressed respect for Barnes' picking skills.
"I just think he really understands his guitar," Harty said. "He makes sounds with it that are very unusual."
Dave Dikeman of Hawaii, who caught the show with a group of his college and high school friends, said he has seen Barnes perform a number of times.
"This guy has just obviously been absorbed with his guitar playing for 100 years," Barnes said. "He's a great, unique guitar player."
Caprice Castano of Fountain Valley, Calif., said she walked over to the Lagniappe Stage to relax in the shade, but wound up enjoying the sounds of Barnes. She said his sound reminds her of The Black Keys with a bit of The White Stripes.
"It's good," she decided.
Barnes' influences include genres as varied as bluegrass and metal. The musician paused near the middle of his show to compliment New Orleans heavy metal musicians, mentioning local bands Down and Goatwhore.
"You guys have got a cool metal scene down here," Barnes told the crowd.