Barry Brothers, comprising actual brothers Patrick, Benjamin and Bradford Barry, offer up a strong, charming and catchy, if not entirely revolutionary collection of tracks with their new EP Yawnin' in the Dawnin'. The boys bring with them a powerful sound and a solid choke-hold on pop songwriting combined with the kind of down-home honest, clear, yarn-spinnin', country folk stylings one might expect from the album's title. The beauty of Yawnin' in the Dawnin' is that is balances tongue-in-cheek musical frolicking with heavier, more serious experimentation. It's in this way that the Barry Brothers can hold onto some of the roots of folk while also calling out and back to the Allman Brothers (not used as an example purely because of their "brotherness") and even a little bit of the pop sensibility of bands like Coldplay, Kings of Leon and even older heroes like Neil Young and CCR.
The opening track is entirely a capella, introducing the folk-historical roots for the band and getting the impetus for the title out of the way first thing. It's a strong opener, demonstrating not only the brother's chemistry as singers, but also the endearingly off harmony harmonics. There's no overproduced vocals here, or intricately layered effects to smooth out the edges. In a way "Yawnin' in the Dawnin'" declares those ideas unnecessary. This is folk. And it's back to basics. "For Your Own Good" falls in at track two. It's a catchy, by-the-book pop song. And while it is enjoyable and memorable, with a chorus that gets stuck easily in your head, it feels too big. Especially in contrast to the stark, voices only, narrative opener. "Carnival(e)" does a fine job of correcting that tonal shift by reining everything back in. Darker and building only for the choruses, it's a song that feels less radio-friendly, and less aware that it should be, but also has most of the ingredients to arrive on the radio. More on the side of rock, again, than folk. "Three Years in Carolina," is the strongest song on the EP. Using carefully layered vocals and the brotherly harmony, it's also lighter on guitar, feeling like a song that might happen in a fine saloon. The lyrics here are very pure, operating on the storytelling interests we are used to. It's also the most throwback-esque song. And it has something that is elemental to this genre, fine, lamentative, fucking harmonica! And the line "I got a place I'll get high every day." Winner.
"Drink One More" has a great storytelling idea too. Referencing Ali v. Frazier and human frailty. It's a drinking anthem with a casual drum line, a subtle guitar drizzle, and the kind of personal touch (as each brother sings about his birthday) that you can only really get with folk. This may be the purest folk song, though it becomes knowingly self-aware at one point, to the point of the distraction. "Love Something Too Much" has a Springsteen-like storytelling quality, and feels vaguely like Cee Lo's "Fuck You," but it never feels like it gains a melodic momentum. The chorus, layering cries of disappointment, is fully formed, but the verses can be rambling, trying to tell too many things. The song builds, and builds, but never feels like it boils over. "Great Unknown" is a stronger track, though. It's very honest. It's very direct. It is folk narrative meets modern world. And it also blends in a little bit of pastoral keys to fill out the ballad.
With Yawnin' in the Dawnin' you get 7 solid tracks that feature clear, linear lyrical schemes and well-honed verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-verse-chorus songs. While the album isn't perfect, often relying on cliches about pop-folk and soft-ish rock, it is heavy on heart, which makes it respectable. You will find at least two or three songs here that stick in your head. And repeat listening value is moderately high. The Barry Brothers are vocally strong, nearly coffee shop folk-rockabilly troubadours, and ultimately, sturdy, honest, pop songwriters. Listen to the album below. And visit the band's website.
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