Editors' pick

The Barr Brothers


Editorial Review

Album review: "The Barr Brothers"

In the past few years, a new genre has come into focus in the no man's land where indie-rock and Americana overlap.

Bands such as the Decemberists, Low Anthem and DeVotchKa have been employing such unlikely instruments as pump organ, harp, dulcimer, clarinet, fiddle and steel guitar to evoke the sound of rural 19th-century musicians gathering in a town square for a twilight concert. These bands are less interested in a historically accurate re-creation than in looking at our own modern, urban culture from such a distant perspective.

The Barr Brothers' eponymous debut album is a terrific addition to this genre. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Brad Barr and drummer Andrew Barr were once two-thirds of indie-rock band the Slip, but they have radically revamped their sound for this project. Joined by harpist/dulcimerist Sarah Page and pump organist Andres Vial, they have created an imaginary past where village musicians play acoustic instruments in the quiet of a parlor but sing with the knowing irony of a modern college classroom.

Thus, when Brad describes himself as "one-half child, the other ghost" on "Old Mythologies," the sense of being dislocated from time is reinforced by the cabin guitar and salon harp. When he describes himself as "a beggar in the morning, a king at night" on the album's first single, "Beggar in the Morning," the dreamlike ability to assume one identity and discard it for another is made plausible by droning, bowed bass and the chiming hammered dulcimer.

--Geoffrey Himes, Dec. 2, 2011