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Neil “Bar-B-Q” Barnes and Friends - This Was Then, Now


15 songs; 61:46 minutes

Styles: Traditional Electric Blues, Chicago Blues

Tech experts are excited about a projected tipping point called the “singularity,” at which technology becomes so advanced that it can literally build and program itself. Will there ever be a point in the evolution of blues music when albums can almost compose themselves? Surely not, but that’s the interesting question proposed by the title of Dublin, CA’s Neil “Bar-B-Q” Barnes on his time-capsule album, “This Was Then, Now.”

Of the fifteen 1980 - 82 vintage recordings, the five originals are excellent, solid blues offerings with an all-star studio line up. Too bad there wasn’t more of those to include. The last nine are covers recorded live in the early 1980s at various venues in the blues scene of the San Jose/ Santa Cruz CA area known as The "South Bay." One live highlight, however, is Luther Tucker singing and playing guitar on “Worried Life Blues.” Almost all of the covers are familiar to blues fans (e.g. “Got My Mojo Working,” “Sleep in a Hollow Log,” “The Mess Around,” and “Same Old Blues”). One could argue that the “blues singularity” has been reached, but Barnes explains: “The sound quality of the live recordings is a bit raw, but are included because I am fond of the songs and the musicians who performed them. I think the energy still comes through.” Indeed it does, but, again, the best offerings on this CD are the five originals. Three pack a wallop stronger than Autumn 2012’s Hurricane Sandy:

Track 03: “One More Pallbearer”--Oct. 31st Halloween and Mexico’s Day of the Dead are upon us, and this song provides the perfect atmosphere. Vocalist Hap Scott laments: “It’s going to take one more pallbearer to put you in your grave. Six will put you in the ground; it’s going to take one more just to stifle your sound!” Barnes’ harp and Bob Gomes’ Hammond B-3 organ are frighteningly good beside guests on guitar Mike “Jr.” Watson and Sonny Lane.

Track 04: “Bayshore Backup”--This perky instrumental features Mark Naftalin on piano, Bill Stuve on stand-up bass, guitarists Sonny Lane and Mike “Jr.” Watson, and Robert Montes on drums. Everyone is in full form, clapping and jiving along to the rhythms of San Francisco’s South Bay area. “Bayshore Backup’s” only flaw is that it’s too short, clocking in at three minutes--just when any dancers might be busting their biggest moves!

Track 05: “Married Man Eyes”--People know the look, especially if they themselves are hitched: “You can see it in their eyes when the weekend comes. You start discussing your plans; they tell you they can’t come. They don’t want to hear about those good times--that girl got them on the run!” Be sure and listen closely to the opening commentary and the very end, because they’re the best parts. This reviewer would like to nominate “Married Man Eyes” as 2012’s funniest blues song!

Other featured guest musicians are Ron Thompson – vocals and slide guitar, Little Willie Littlefield – piano, Francis Clay – drums, and Johnny Waters – vocals and guitar. The live tracks feature Barnes, Greg Hartman, Lex Silva, and Barnes and the Rib-Tones: Sid Morris, Hap Scott, Larry Calley, Bob Gomes, and Robert Montes.

Overall, Bar-B-Q Barnes’ efforts are far above average; they knew how to play real-deal blues.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 33 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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