Rock and Rap Confidential: Review of Pizza Box

Pizza Box, Danny Barnes (ATO)--In the early part of his career, Barnes was a bluegrass hellcat, his virtuoso banjo playing leading the Austin-based Bad Livers down the weird and rocky side of traditional (and original) music. Barnes lived in the place where punk, metal, and country met--where the lost highway hit a dead end and howled--and he’s still in that neighborhood. “Pizza Box” (on Dave Matthews’ label) is less experimental, with more hooks, and has some sweet, almost Beach Boyish singing. But it continues to see the darkness and yearn for redemption, going backwards (“I need a good woman in a rich man’s yard”) and forwards (“So here I stand in the ol’ Wal-Mart”), his spectacular, lead guitar-like banjo connecting the two. If this CD had Steve Earle’s name on it, or Dylan’s, it would be called an astonishing and moving mash-up of American traditions and be heralded as one of the best albums of 2009. And so it is.

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