Big Red Barn is either a bluegrass band disguised as a fun-loving bar band or a fun-loving bar band disguised as a bluegrass band. Listening to their CD, Barn Again, it’s clear that whichever rings most true, they have eclectic tastes and adept musical imaginations.
Despite a mostly straight-ahead instrumental lineup of mandolin (Kevin Brown), banjo and resonator guitar (Charley Gurche), guitar (Ken Glastre), and bass (Patrick Klausen), joined on several tracks by fiddler Andrew Wilson, they tend to put a swinging bluesy vibe to their arrangements. So even when tackling songs like “I’m Just Here to Get My Baby Out Of Jail,” “More Pretty Girls Than One,” “Corrina, Corrina,” and “Why You Been Gone So Long,” they reconstruct them and give them a different life. One of the biggest strengths of Big Red Barn is that they don’t content themselves to follow familiar stylistic paths, but instead take everything they touch, especially bluegrass standards, and recast them in new and interesting ways.
Overall they have a loose, easygoing sensibility and a fondness for swing, bringing in numbers like Jelly Roll Morton’s “Don’t You Leave Me Here” and Bobby Troup’s “Hungry Man” and giving them all a casual vibe. Three of the bandmembers sing, all decently if not exceptionally, and the playing is consistently tasty without being flashy. The album’s two instrumentals, Gurche’s “Kick The Can” and Glastre’s “Mi Alma Viejo,” show a more serious side than is displayed in their novelty songs.
So while this Spokane-based ensemble might not color neatly within the bluegrass lines, they’re still an interesting unit that dares to gather unusual material and to give it its own distinctive stamp. In this era of musical cloning, standing out from the crowd is good, and Big Red Barn is worth giving their own indescribable musical niche. (www.bigredbarn.us)HK