I'm kinda disappointed the weird folk scene isn't going over more strongly than it is. PR wunderkind Howard Wuelfing started turning me onto it a couple of years ago, and the movement is one of the more innovative in present music endeavors, especially in the person of Davendra Banhart and the aggregate of funky rootsy muto-folkers gravitating thereabouts. Sure, there are more than a few clunkers in the entire scene, but the level of bizarre and ingenious wrinkles among the truly weird is a wonder to behold…er, behear. Well, Kevin Barker's one of those orbiting Banhart and You & Me is a case in point, a fine piece of post-Dead Dead, trust me.
Parker's a singer-writer-guitarist with a soporifically mellifluous approach, a lazy Sunday morning air still wallowing in a righteous Saturday Nite moonshine session that luxuriated in laughs, hoots, fellowship, and a lot of pickin' 'n grinnin'. The vibe of the Grateful Dead and its many offshoots (Weir, Lesh, Hunter, etc.) is so strong that if I played the disc for you without saying a word and then lied, alleging it came from yet another Dead enterprise, you'd have very little reason to doubt. Perhaps the best evocation is Amber, with it's unbelievably cool short lead in the middle eight—pure inspiration in a field of flowers and night skies.
In fact, it's work like this, and the other great platters Wuelfing forwarded, that forced me to revisit the cool anarchic 60s output of the splintered-up Youngbloods solo crew: Banana, Joe Bauer, etc. Though not particularly fond of 'em at the time, I'd hung onto the LPs 'cause I knew there was great shit in there but could never quite access it…though I dug Mike Hurley's similar materials. Now, with the fine-tuning administered by the weird-folk cure-all sonic ointment, I get 'em 100%. All of that, then, set me up for this CD, and it's a pristine exercise in just going with the flow, a la Haight Ashbury '68.
Barker picked a great unpresuming crew to back him—people who've done work in Wilco, Vetiver, Elvis Costello's band, etc.—but it's his voice and smooth country mellotones that'll capture and hypnotize the listener right off the bat. Walking Along, in fact, demonstrates how an in-the-pocket musician can be loose and tight simultaneously. A hell of a lot of You & Me illustrates precisely that, with most of the eleven cuts exceeding the 5-minute mark, allowing plenty of melodic groove all around, dripping with lap steel, Wurlitzer, lonesome fencerail wheatfield blues. Come for the sleepy layback, stay for the roister.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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