Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Alan Barnosky returns triumphantly, bearing new instruments

January 22, 2020

The last time Alan Barnosky graced these humble halls, I called his debut Old Freight easily one of the best folk albums of the year” because of Barnosky’s “rare, doesn’t-come-around-that-often talent.” Well, he’s come back around (although, indeed, not that often–Old Freight was a 2017 jam), and he’s making good on his early promise. Lonesome Road is a six-song EP that has good somethings for the troubadour folk purist, the bluegrass-lover, and the general folk fan.

I praised Barnosky’s ability to spin a yarn and a melody almost completely unassisted on Old Freight, and those skills are still on display. “I’m Caving In” has some color strings on top of a subtle folk trio, but it’s essentially Barnosky telling a tale, rattling his acoustic, and spinnin’ gold. “Ain’t It a Shame” goes a similar route–the killer parts of the track are Barnosky’s delivery and the devastating lyrics. The rest of the arrangement polishes the diamond, but it’s already a diamond. Barnosky is really good.

The instrumental “Sawtooth Ridge” will satisfy bluegrass fans with its traditional flair and enthusiasm. The combo shines here, just as it does in “Might Be a Call,” “Lonesome Road,” and “Beer Cans and Quarters.” These latter three tracks show the supporting instruments giving Barnosky’s work some extra wings, as the fiddle has a prominent role to play melodically and in setting the tone of the piece. Being a bassist, I can’t short the bass player for doing his part in holding down the traditional up-down bass lines; just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly fitting and a solid contributor.

When all is said and done, I’m a troubadour folk man myself; much more than bluegrass. So it’s “I’m Caving In” and “Ain’t It a Shame” for me–I’m a big fan of both. The whole EP is strong–there’s not a weak link in the collection. Barnosky is spreading his wings a bit and showing off more of what he can do, which is exactly what I would hope for. If you’re up for some trad-leaning troubadour folk with bluegrass tendencies (and one yodel), you’ve got to hit up Lonesome Road. —Stephen Carradini

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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