Carroll County Times review: Pizza Box

Danny Barnes has been flying under my radar for quite some time, and his latest effort makes me wonder why. His October release, Pizza Box, is a window into the versatile musicality of a country-loving Texan who refuses to operate within the confines of tradition. Rather, he uses bluegrass and country as a backdrop for rockin, bluesy and folksy tunes as he tells honest, captivating stories of a well-traveled southern man.

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Austin Chronicle: SXSW Interviews

After decades of mining the underground, banjo master Danny Barnes – who here hosts the Billions Corporation's high-watt Americana showcase – has made the record of his career with the help of Mr. Stadium Tour, Dave Matthews. Pizza Box, on Matthews' homespun ATO label, also features the well-known singer-songwriter occasionally offering backup vocals.

"Typically when I play, there could be a hundred people, and half of them are in bands," relates Barnes, a lanky Texan and onetime Austinite via punkgrass pioneers the Bad Livers who's called Seattle home for the last decade. "Some of them are in huge bands. We had some mutual friends, and Matthews came to a couple of my shows. After, he'd come to me and say: 'I love your songs. I just appreciate what you're doing.'"

The two ran into each other again when Robert Earl Keen's band, which features Barnes, opened some shows for Matthews. A friendship developed to the point that Barnes and his banjo were part of the last DMB album, Big Whiskey & the Groogrux King. In typical, organic fashion, Pizza Box was delivered next.

"I didn't have a record or a deal or anything," Barnes adds. "I was just writing a bunch of songs. I'd get around my friends, like Robert, Bill Frisell, or Dave or guys in his band and play these songs. I started realizing through their response that I really had something that was pretty cool. So at some point Dave said: 'We want to help you make this record. We got a lot of resources, and I want to help you.'"

Continuing his tendency to play with an unusual array of musicians, Barnes will be backed at SXSW by Butthole Surfer bassist Jeff Pinkus and members of his Southern blues-rock outfit Honky. "I'm fortunate," Barnes humbly claims. "I am so blessed because I can do whatever the hell it is I want to do. I don't have this giant machine that I have to keep running, and I take full advantage of that." – Jim Caliguiri

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All Music Guide Review: Pizza Box

"Pizza Box is a long way from the punky bluegrass of the Bad Livers, and may be the best album Barnes has ever made."

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Honest Tune: Review of Pizza Box

As the name suggests, Danny Barnes' latest effort, Pizza Box, offers a delicious mix of country, rock, and banjo-infused blues. With college-crowd favorite Dave Matthews on backing vocals, how can this ex-Bad Livers frontman be refused?

From the first track, Barnes amplifies his best asset: genre-bending. The aptly-titled "Caveman" expertly—and infectiously—mixes the down home and the honky-tonk with its "Ain't no different than the caveman time" refrain. "The Road" and title track further that penchant. With driving drums and guitars, frenzied and muffled vocals, "The Road" quickly departs from its predecessor while barely preparing the listener for "Pizza Box" and its toned-down atmosphere.

It's clear that Barnes enjoys the back-and-forth. Whether indulging in a Kid Rock (the country Kid, that is) and Hank Jr. hybrid ("Bone"), acronyms ("TSA"), or the classic country outlaw song ("Charlie"), Barnes remains a masterful storyteller—and without question, ever-evolving.

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Rolling Stone: Review of Pizza Box

Texas country rocker Danny Barnes likes to do wild things with his banjo — check out the explosive picking on his old band the Bad Livers' turbocharged hillbilly version of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life." Barnes' seventh solo album, Pizza Box, is a collection of banjo-based songs set against big rock ("Road"), Memphis-style horns ("Sparta, TN"), barnstorming juke-joint blues ("Misty Swan") and even a shuffling, hip-hop-style beat ("Sleep"). Barnes is a clever lyricist with a punk-rock past who understands the raw simplicity of a good country tune: The album's title track is a wistful ballad in which Barnes confesses in his sweet, vulnerable Texas drawl, "Basically it's so elemental/Us Southern boys are sentimental." Enough said.

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SXSW 2010: Danny Barnes

Interview w/ Spinner.

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NY Times Playlist: Roots Rock and the Funk of the Firmament

Playing the banjo puts roots in Danny Barnes’ roots-rock, and so does a fondness for country and blues structures in his songs, which cheerfully name-check Southern towns. But his album “Pizza Box” (ATO) doesn’t backdate itself. Mr. Barnes, 47, tells contemporary tales that are wryly observant. “With her hair in a bun, her hand on her gun/We made love with the radio on,” he sings in “TSA,” an Appalachian-flavored tune about romance with an airport guard, while the lovelorn “Broken Clock” worries about credit-card debt. Some songs hint at the Band, but Mr. Barnes also cranks up to feedback volume on the stomping “Road.” Behind his down-home magical realism is an underlying benevolence: In “Overdue,” he sings, “I’m learning to forgive you baby/Would you forgive me too?”

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Three acts delight at Mountain Stage

Excerpt: Barnes has a style that's easily described. It's called his own.

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Danny Barnes: Dave Matthews’ Favorite Banjo Player

Feature from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine.

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Austin Chronicle: Review of Pizza Box

Texas Platters by Raoul Hernandez

"I don't do dope; I don't drink wine. I likes to play ... It's cheaper that way," croons Bad Livers banjo master Danny Barnes on the title track of his solo debut for Dave Matthews' label, ATO. "Basically it's all elemental: Us Southern boys are sentimental." So much so that Pizza Box dishes "TSA" even more romantic ("my baby's she's working for the TSA"), the now-Pacific Northwester's tart vocals almost as pointillistic as his picking, percussion big and roomy beneath him ("with her hair in a bun, her hand on her gun, we made love with the radio on"). Completing the tender triptych is "Overdue," while "Charlie" evokes the Peanuts gallery of "You're a good man, Charlie Brown" with an equally funny, homespun tale of a part-time speed freak. Pizza Box flies the freak flag all right, adapting truisms into musical stakes à la "Broken Clock," which leans to classic country ("even a broken clock gets right twice a day"). Paddleboat twang in Barnes' hands ("Caveman") makes bluegrass a plantation ramble of trailer-park proportions.

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