FAME Review: Brian Hebert & Friends - Crossing the Bar
Brian Hebert & Friends - Crossing the Bar

Crossing the Bar

Brian Hebert & Friends

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

It's been a while since we heard from Brian Hebert (if you didn't catch his Beatles' trib in 2009, you need to, here), and his new one, Crossing the Bar, is both harmonious with the last outing and rather differentiated simultaneously. I find a lot more of a Toulouse Engelhardt by way of John Renbourn vibe to it; that is: not as wild as Engelhardt tends to get (there aren't many players like Toulouse), much more classically pitched, as Renbourn would favor, and then a step beyond both, as Brothers in Arms/Crossing the Bar demonstrates. There's a lot of folk, Celtica, and, as Brian himself terms it, progressive acoustic music-making going on here.

I'm always interested in new or unusual instruments such as Kevin Kastning keeps inventing, and Hebert favors unorthodox axes like the five-string electric tenor guitar and Bob McNally's strumstick (I don't care a whit about the controversy surrounding the invention—very few things are ever really invented, more often refined—'cause that's one cool instrument and, due to its relative simplicity, should get kids a LOT more interested in playing music rather than just listening to it) while doing a lot of riffs on famous songs. Learpholl abstractly owes to Ringo's It Don't Come Easy, The Humours of Detroit derives in Stevie Wonder's Superstition riff, Planxty Page found birth in a guitar break in Whole Lotta Love, and so on, so it ain't like Brian gave up the tribute gig, just made it a lot more opaque. In many cases, you have to listen hard to detect the genesis derivations, but they're there alright.

The playing, though, is what compels the listener. In some cases, it's just him simul-synched, in other cuts, he's accompanied by sessioneers on bodhran, cello, bouzouki, tambourine, and/or conga. The Humours of Detroit recognizably borrows Stevie but is also quite Emmit Rhodes-y, rustic while funky, and Whistle is done on the aforementioned strumstick, embracing a banjo/ukelele/dulcimer/mandolin sound. Splendid Isolation / Bag of Nails is mindful of Paul Brett, but then Hebert got a lot of his influences from the same places as Brett: trad melodies and tempi. There are 15 tracks altogether, and they flow nicely into one another, making the entire CD more narrative in structure than just the usual sequencing job most discs carry. And when you're listening? Relax, pour a beer, and let the birdsong outside your window flow in as the disc plays.

Track List:

  • The Collier's Reel (traditional) / Sporting Paddy (traditional)
  • House of the Rising Sun (traditional)
  • Brothers in Arms / Crossing the Bar (*)
  • The Blue Jig (*)
  • Here and Away (*)
  • Learpholl
  • The Humours of Detroit
  • Sally in the Garden (traditional) / Pretty Polly (traditional)
  • Paddy's Trip to Budapest (*)
  • Whistle
  • L'ange De Glace (Ice Angel) (*)
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams
  • Planxty Page
  • Splendid Isolation / The Bag of Nails
  • Starships
Trad songs are noted, all cuts marked with an asterisk are originals by Brian Hebert, the rest are hybrids…
so I haven't a clue how to credit them and, frankly, think Hebert should take credit anyway.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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