Barb Hollow Sessions
Barb Hollow Records (BH002)
Barb Hollow Records
by David Schultz
If you haven't heard of Jeff Barbra & Sarah Pirkle yet, you soon will. In the same company as other great folk/country couples, Dave Carter & Tracy Grammar, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart, Jeff & Sarah are on their way up. For nearly five years, they have hosted and produced the "Behind the Barn" Live radio show for WDVX in east Tennessee. In 2000, they won first place at the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.
Their music is that unclassifiable Americana that sounds like a blend of country, bluegrass, old-timey, and folk. The album sounds most country-like when Jeff takes the lead vocals. He has that deep country voice reminiscent of Bruce Robison. He also plays acoustic guitar on all the songs. Sarah has a wonderful voice that has been compared to Allison Krauss, although I find her voice deeper and more complex. She also plays fiddle on many songs.The 11 songs on Barb Hollow Sessions were recorded at their home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains--in fact, most of the vocals were recorded in their bathroom. Barb Hollow Sessions is the couple's sophomore release, following up on 2000's Dog Years.
Between the two, I'm most fond of the style of Sarah's songs and her singing. The opening song sets the pace for this excellent collection of all-original tunes. Slip Away is about taking notice of the little things in life as time advances: rocking the baby, skipping work, goofing off down by the river with her lover. This song sets a high standard for the remainder of the album. Today It Don't Look Like Rain draws the analogy between the Dust Bowl and the increasing emotional distance between a couple. My Baby Rocks the Cradle and Cries is about a mother watching her teenage daughter and her baby. Jeff's songs include Only Home I've Had, sung from the perspective of a murderer released on parole and dealing with the fear of freedom: "These cold gray walls don't seem like much, but they're the only home I've had." The couple duets on Bury Me in the Red Clay, a sizzling fiddle and banjo romp about two-timing. The song is now (June 2004) working its way up the Bluegrass Unlimited National Singles Chart.
Prayer for My Friends, the closing song on the album, was recorded by Terri Hendrix on her 2002 release The Ring (www.acousticmusic.com/fame/p02178.htm). Hearing the original by the songwriters brings new meaning to a song I thoroughly enjoyed from hearing Hendrix's version; Jeff & Sarah's version is more upbeat and twangy than Hendrix's. Hendrix's love of Jeff & Sarah's songs continues as she has just recorded Quiet Me for her new record The Art Of Removing Wallpaper. Jeff & Sarah's version of Quiet Me" on Barb Hollow Sessions is a slow melancholy blues with their two voices blending so lovely during the chorus.
I can't say enough good things about this CD. Fans of old time country music the way it was meant to be listened to will thoroughly enjoy this album.
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