Barbaro is a four-piece band based in the Minneapolis-Winona area of Minnesota. Members include Isaac Sammis on banjo, Kyle Shelstad on guitar, Rachel Calvert on fiddle, Jason Wells on bass, and the group is joined on this project by guest artist Julian Davis on mandolin.
It was back in 2018 when the band gained recognition when they released their self-titled EP of original material by primary songwriter Shelstad. It was also that year when the band won the “best-band” contests at both the John Hartford Memorial Festival Contest and the Minnesota Bluegrass Roots Contest.
Now with a couple of more years’ experience under their belt, the group has released this debut full-length project that features another collection of original material showcasing the songwriting skills of guitarist Kyle Shelstad. Musically their instrumental line-up and approach are basically bluegrass, but they also consider themselves “new grass” and include other influences taken from jazz, folk, and even chamber music.
The name of the band and the song “Barbaro” is taken from the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro who handily won the race only to break his leg two weeks later at the Preakness. The project leads off with “Cold Stack” which shows the interplay between banjo and fiddle which can be heard throughout. “Kawliga” is about Sammis’ cat, and not to be confused with the Hank Williams song. “Montana, Oh” is about open spaces and they hit the jazz button on “Pancake and a Bad Idea.”
The instrumental “Mississippi Thunder Speedway” kicks into high gear with each member getting to show off, and the project closes with nice “All Those Folks.” Barbaro is a group of excellent musicians who have formed their own sound and approach to this music.