The Genre-Defying Barr Brothers

Updated: Jun 4, 2019


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The genre-busting music of the Barr Brothers is subtle and eclectic.


A few years ago, my nephew in Vermont brought the Barr Brothers to my music radar. This band consists of guitarist and songwriter Brad Barr, his brother and drummer Andrew Barr (both originally from Rhode Island), and Canadian harpist and singer Sarah Pagé, whom the Barrs discovered after hearing her music drift through their apartment wall in Montreal several years ago.


Since 2011, the Barr Brothers have released three CDs in an evolving development of their folk-blues-world music genre. On their self-titled album (2011), they explored acoustic and electric tracks inspired by Appalachian folk songs. On Sleeping Operator (2014) they pursued connections between American blues and West and North African music. And this year they’ve released Queens of the Breakers, featuring multi-layered vocal harmonies and sophisticated, subtle instrumental embellishments, including slide guitar, harp, and varied West African percussion. The CD is a satisfying journey into another dose of music from off the beaten path.


Recommended tracks:


Kompromat (2017). This upbeat electric track makes good dance music. The lyrics portray a difficult love relationship and the storyteller waking up from a bad dream of being “wanted in 11 states.” Listen for the electric guitar as it morphs into a bagpipe-like wail towards the end.


Song That I Heard (2017). This track opens like a classic Simon & Garfunkel composition with signature Paul Simon acoustic guitar work and reflective vocal harmonies. Maybe Brad Barr was influenced by S&G on this melancholy composition.


Burn Card (2015). From the Alta Falls EP, “Burn Card” begins and ends with 30 seconds of exquisite acoustic guitar drifting in and out. It reminds me of The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, “making the dust fly with a broom” while chugging down the road hoping to move on to better times.


Half Crazy (2014). In this toe-tapping exploration into the blues, slide guitar and banjo take hold while pushing the listener closer to the African roots of American blues. With flavors of Senegal and Mali.


Old Mythologies (2011). Returning to a Simon & Garfunkel acoustic arrangement, this track begins with the plaintive lyrics:


It’s probably now that I need you the most

When I’m one-half child and the other ghost

And one of ’em wants to pull you close

and the other to let you go


Deacon’s Son (2011). Clearly influenced by Malian music from West Africa, this track leads with steel drums and other indigenous instruments. The pentatonic electric guitar reminds me of Tinariwen, the Tuareg band from the Sahara Desert region of Mali, with its happy and upbeat feeling.


Add the Barr Brothers to your music library and share it with your friends.

when you click on the green Spotify message, you will land on the full playlist on Spotify.

Click on play arrow to hear 30 second samples of these songs. Then, watch for the shared Spotify playlist pop-up. Click on the Spotify green button to hear full tracks for the entire 6-song playlist by the Barr Brothers.

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