Bad Livers and Danny Barnes

SXSW Records

Record Reviews

Bad Livers

Blood and Mood (Sugar Hill)

Danny Barnes

...And His Oft Mended Raiment (Minner Bucket)

Electric punk rock, sample-based tunes with drum tracks, and a shocking scarcity of juiced-up banjo playing are the surprises that await Bad Livers fans on the band's new release, Blood and Mood. "Looky Here," the album's fourth track, is the deconstruction of everything that Danny Barnes and Mark Rubin have done before. Set against a basic drum track, muffled voices, and various blips and beeps, a slow banjo melody caves in on itself and melds into the samples, thereafter replaced by a dissonant, distorted electric guitar solo that also ends up bleeding into the larger, plodding soundscape. Not only is this the Livers' most "outside" recording, oddly enough it's also their most accessible and the most likely to end up on the radio. What happened, exactly? Evolution, apparently, and the missing link is Danny Barnes and His Oft Mended Raiment, recorded at the guitarist's home in rural Washington state. Where the new Livers album still worships at the altars of punk rock and bluegrass and revolves mostly around Barnes' banjo tunes -- even though the banjo has been enhanced or replaced on nearly every tune, the structure -- Oft Mended Raiment dances a bit further outside the familiar. Besides the abundance of great titles ("Flat Head in a Phillips World," "If You Would Die Then I Could Eat," "I'm Not in the Swiss Army, I Just Have the Knife"), all the tracks share both the intention of undaunted exploration and the eventual sense of being an inch deep and a mile wide. Still, while there are wonderful moments, like the coherent eeriness of "Truth Got Kicked" and the sauntering "Flat Head," there aren't too many songs here that will stick in your head, begging you to hum them over and over -- like you will with "Little Bitty Town" or "Sawdust Boogers" off Blood and Mood. Then again, that's not the point. The point is that all of this -- both albums -- fit together. There are grounds for the reconciliation of all musical styles and visions. It's only unfortunate that there ain't more banjo. (Mark Rubin hosts SXSW closing night festivities at La Zona Rosa, Sunday, Mar 19, 8pm)

(Blood and Mood) ****

(Oft Mended Raiment) ***

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