(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
I get quite a few CDs sent to me for reviews here on this web site. I try to check out every one that comes in even if it’s just to skim through the tracks to get a feel of what the music is like. Very rarely does something knock me off my feet like this disc from Virginian guitarist Michael Barry-Rec. I had originally intended to just sample a small portion but once it was on I was almost mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the music. By the third or fourth track, I was completely hooked. Ironically, if I had been given a description of this music I probably wouldn’t have been all that interested. This is music that needs to be heard and experienced.
First off, let me just get a few terms out of the way so I can continue to praise this album: bluegrass, new age, country. Ok…that wasn’t so painful now, was it? To be honest this album has a lot of those influences but Michael’s delivery is so filled with passion and skill that my general dislike for these genres is totally overlooked when listening to the music. Some of this reminds me slightly of a Jerry Douglas album that I have, but where Douglas shines on the dobro, MBR’s axe is the lap steel. His acoustic guitar work is very nice as well, but it’s the steel guitar leads that just make everything come to life. Many tracks just feature the guitars and some sparse keyboards from Josh Harvey but Michael isn’t afraid to add some boogie into the mix with drummers Todd Cooper and Steve West.
So what makes this music so fantastic? Well, there’s a very ethereal quality about the songs, as if this were the soundtrack to a very peaceful journey with amazingly beautiful scenery. I can imagine this North Mountain must be a very inspirational place. It’s also quite evident that this album just didn’t come together by accident. MBR has taken his time and crafted an excellent album of not only great music but also great moments. There are several spots on the album that could very easily be used as soundtrack material. Also, I detected a slight Pink Floyd influence to some of the music, which is often enhanced by Josh Harvey’s brilliant atmospheric keyboards.
Other appearances on the disc include a great electric guitar lead from Jeremy Leadbetter on “Go Fly A Kite”, Rob Campbell and Dave Porter lend a hand on guitar and bass in the all too short “…Thru The Fog”, and Ady Marks adds a nice slide guitar to “A Chance To Dream”. Everything on the album is great but I’d have to say my favorites at the moment are the two last songs on the disc. “Rain Or Shine” has a band plus it contains more great organ sounds from Josh Harvey as well as some nice harmonica from MBR. The last tune is a solo guitar piece with some very inventive reverb effects, it almost sounds like it could have come from one of the newer post-rock bands.
There’s a blurb on the web site website from Michael’s wife that says “Michael can make stones sing”. Even though there’s a little bias in that quote, I can definitely vouch for it. This is some very wonderful and relaxing music. On The Road To North Mountain is great diversion from all the over-inflated attempts at serious music these days. If you’re looking for something uniquely different that’s a bit on the lighter side, check this one out.