If like me, Carry Us On, their latest release, is your introduction to Barefoot Truth, you are in for one hell of a ride. At times quietly contemplative, at times filled with passion, at times alternating between the two, this is some emotionally powerful music. Barefoot Truth, a Connecticut product, melds roots music with rock, adds a bit of jazz and funk, some blues and even something pretty close to rap in a recipe for some fine listening. It is no wonder they have blossomed brightly with some eight million plays on Pandora as their publicity proclaims. In a USA Today interview the band’s guitarist, Jay Driscoll said: “Pandora has created an avenue for us in music. All of a sudden people we had never met before were buying our music online and asking us to play in their cities.” If that success results in an album like Carry Us On, it couldn’t have come too soon.
Music and lyrics of the 12 tracks on the album are the work of a variety of combinations of members of the band, although the one name that comes up most often, even in a case or two as sole creator, is drummer and vocalist Will Evans. Driscoll is featured on the Weissenborn slide guitar as well as electric and acoustic. Andy Wrba plays upright and electric bass and some electric guitar. John Waynelovich (Wayno) is on piano and organ, and Garrett Duffy plays harmonica. Both join in with vocals. Some of the tracks add in horns or violin and cello.
A quick check on YouTube shows that at least some of these songs have been around for awhile. There is for example a duo guitar version of the album’s opener, “Roll if You Fall.” You can compare it with the official slickly produced video for its latest manifestation on Carry Us On on the band’s website. It is a song that speaks for itself. I don’t know that it needs the glossy production, but I don’t know that it hurts. On the other hand the rawer live performance of “Drink to You” from a 2009 Bates College gig doesn’t have quite the polished drama of the studio production on the album which builds to a climax that is little short of an anthem.
This is a band that is at home with a variety of styles. Whether it’s the funky “Reelin,’” the jazzy “Hesitation,” or the reggae “Eagle Front,” they deliver the goods. Whether they play stripped down, low key roots with a catchy melody like “Rope” or add a little dramatic passion augmented with some strings like “Changes in the Weather,” they rock. “Reach” is a beautiful simple melody with a beautifully earnest lyric. “Misled” begins with a little bit of scat and swings with a message about the courage to go on in spite of growing old and feeling “the weight on his shoulders.” “The Ocean” rocks with a vision of a paradise on the beach and ends with a harmonica solo that at its very end suggests an ironic message. “Solitude” has a rough bluesy vibe. Variety is the key.
I read somewhere that Barefoot Truth is the best band you never heard of or something to that effect. I have to say whoever it was said it, was right.