Jambands: Dave Matthews Band Tries a Slice of Danny Barnes’ Pizza Box
As previously reported, in addition to two performances on his own banjo player Danny Barnes sat in with Dave Matthews Band at Bonnaroo Sunday night. Barnes crossed paths with the members of Dave Matthews Band once again last night when he opened for the group at Cincinnati, OH’s Riverbend Music Center as part of Robert Earl Keen’s band. Partway through Dave Matthews Band’s set, Barnes emerged for the second time this week to play on Matthews’ “Corn Bread.” The Bad Livers banjo player remained onstage as Dave Matthews Band covered his original song “Road.” The track appears on Barnes’ ATO release Pizza Box.
Cincinatti.com: Review of Dave Matthews at Riverbend
The personnel count increased from seven to eight when banjo player Danny Barnes joined the group for two songs. Barnes, who appeared earlier in the evening as a part of show opener Robert Earl Keen’s band, released the CD “Pizza Box” last year on the Matthews-owned record label ATO.
Barnes sat in on “Cornbread” and was given a solo, though his spotlight was taken by Matthews, who hammed it up with an odd routine of posing and dancing to Barnes’ banjo picking.
Matthews yielded on the next song, when Barnes sang lead on his own tune “Road,” a rock number with a double-time bluegrass pace that the band approached with a bit of unsteadiness.
The Bad Livers co-founder Danny Barnes is at it again with Pizza Box, his latest release that soothes our longing for John Hartford-style humor mixed with soulful banjo pickin’ and a fresh injection of inspiration.
Each character Danny sings about, each situation and every feeling is multi-dimensional with personality and meaning. The songs are short stories with beginnings, middles and ends.
The banjo has country-music and bluegrass associations, but Danny Barnes is taking the instrument further: to jazz, punk and pop. His latest release is titled Pizza Box, and it features the banjo as it's rarely been heard before.
Barnes recorded the album at Haunted Hollows Studio in Virginia. The facility is owned by none other than Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band, who took notice of Barnes several years ago. Barnes played banjo with the group in the past, and now Matthews is returning the favor. He contributes backing vocals on several tracks from Pizza Box.
HEAR THE MUSIC
Add to Playlist
[4 min 49 sec]
Add to Playlist
Before this solo release, Barnes worked with musicians such as Robert Earl Keen, Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz. He also played in his own acoustic punk-rock band, Bad Livers. Pizza Box may be his most pop-focused work to date, but he says he's just playing the music he enjoys.
"I look at what I do as fractured pop music, and I love the way [it] delivers really profound music in a really simple way," he says. "It's a direct path to a lot of people's attention."
Barnes is known to scat while playing the banjo. He says he started doing it when one of his arrangement teachers told him that he should only play what he could sing.
"I practiced for 10 years, where I would try to sing everything that I was playing so that it wasn't just gratuitous scales," he says.
After almost four decades of playing music, Barnes still says he has a lot to learn.
"I've been at it 38 years," he says, "and I still take lessons and work on it."
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.
when i was a young man, you could get a sody water and go in a little booth and listen to 45s. it was so hep. they were cheap and cool. it was really fun to experiment and find new sounds. i'm still doing this 38 years later. every time i do an in-store i get reminded of why record stores are so important. i almost always hear something on the house system, where i go, "what is that?" and end up buying something new. with this giant database of all recorded music, taste makers are more important than ever. a working person just doesn't have enough time in their life to sort through everything that exists. i've seen lots of changes in my life on this planet but one thing sure is the same, and that is going into a record store and flipping through the stock.
Steam Powered Preservation Society review of Ricegrass
As much as we need those genuine roots, we also need visionaries to water the branches, otherwise we risk this music becoming mere nostalgia. There’s absolutely a place for all of it (if we can set aside the tired “traditional” versus “progressive” chatter). Thank god then for an artist like Danny Barnes. He stood on stage with his banjo in his hands and his laptop to the side, ready to lead us into fearless new territory. The slack-jawed crowd that got it hung on every shape-shifting note. On banjo alone, Barnes will blow a few new holes in your cerebrum, but add the laptop and his folkTronics approach, and it’s a whole other animal, as he uses Ableton software to incorporate samples while layering and manipulating the sound of his instrument. The jaunty, rump-shaker “Misty Swan,” from superb latest album Pizza Box strutted with a bass-heavy gutteral growl, a whomping beat that made someone behind me gasp, “WOW!” Sprinkling in bits of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” Barnes than dropped the beat out entirely and simply played all over it in a dizzying whirl. Beside songs from Pizza Box, many of which got the folkTronics treatment, we were treated to banjo-only versions of “Good as I Been to You,” “Life in the Country,” Bad Livers‘ “Little Bitty Town,” and one fellow’s request for the moving “Big Girl Blues.” With moments of graceful note shaping and electronic fueled insanity, structure and demolition, this was an astonishing set by one of the most uncanny songwriters and musicians working today. At one point, I glanced up and noticed the sign behind him on the cantina stage that read, “Texas ain’t no place for amateurs.” No foolin’. Barnes is light years ahead but, as I watched the moon climb the rungs of the sky over the cantina, something tells me his body of work will be eternal.
Got tickets to Mike Gordon’s Revolution Hall show on Friday? Get there (425 River St., Troy) in time for opener Danny Barnes. The leader of Austin’s semi-legendary roots rockers the Bad Livers, Barnes touches down everywhere in the Americana spectrum on his quite amazing album “Pizza Box.”
He spent three years writing the songs on this astounding album, full of wit and fun and fire, playing everything with strings himself — including lots of banjo — and getting help from big fan Dave Matthews.
It's a rare artist that can slip their material into different mediums and have it work just as well. But when you've got a set of songs as strong as the ones on Danny Barnes' latest, Pizza Box, the work speaks for itself. Although he usually plays his solo shows with his banjo and laptop, using Ableton software to loop and create texture, this night Barnes was backed by Honky - Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers) on bass and Justin Collins on drums, later joined by Bobby Rock on guitar. It was an amped-up approach that suited the songs to a tee, as Barnes' latest work travels from the sincerely touching to the unabashedly badass. At one point, he had us all verklempt during love song "Overdue," his banjo dancing lightly over Pinkus' melodic low end. Later, he picked up a flying-V guitar and wailed with a beaming Bobby Rock on "Road," his tale of a methamphetamine dealer hell bent on destruction. The latter was the perfect lead-up to an end cap of Honky songs. Running on pure diesel, where even the girls on the mud flaps would be giving you the middle finger, Honky took us for a whirlwind ride as they stretched their time to the max. There's a dirty grind with a rough-and-tumble heart in their sound, and Barnes' wild guitar freakouts fit perfectly. The grins on their faces and laughter as they would catch each other's eyes said it all – these cats were having a hell of a party up there, ripping it apart for those of us left standing at the brink of 2 a.m. at The Palm Door. Although he hasn't called Austin home for awhile, at one point a gentleman in the back cried, "Welcome home, Danny!" A true original who has never fit in anyone's box, Barnes' presence is certainly a welcome addition to SXSW this year.