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Music rebels they are most certainly. A more appropriate and accurate account would be so say they buck the system, turn the clock back to perform music that’s real and spare. Like seasoned hardwood or moonshine from a southern mountain still their music is durable and pure. James The Fang & Serious Sam Barrett recorded The Dime Horse Shoe on a 4-track out on Dauphin Island, Alabama (an idyllic looking place) on February 8th 2016. Yes, that is on just one day, quite amazing by anyone’s standards.
No concession is made to present-day fads (my copy is in beautiful, old fashioned vinyl) . Some people may think they have made an authentic recording, but all too often it is in name only. Here, the boys nail their hearts to the mast and let ‘er go. Fiddle playing vocalist James (from the Pine Hill Haints) Barrier and ultra keen, 12-string guitarist, banjo player and vocalist ‘Serious’ Sam Barrett (Leeds, England) hit the road running. First up with Barrett on lead vocals is a wondrous version of “When First Unto This Country”. The exquisite fiddle work and varied little riffs from James are most elegant. Even at this early stage it was obvious James is an immense talent, and with Sam’s deep affinity and love of the old stuff nothing was going to be left to chance; as the boys reproduce an honest and pure down home back porch sound. The music could just as easily have been sourced from a session played in an old wood cabin up in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia or rural Kentucky or Georgia where neighbours might be distant but are always welcome. Long before country (or folk) music was viewed as commercially viable.
Among those pushing the superb opener they serve up a bustling version of “Diamond Joe”, this as the boys with sleeves rolled up give it their all. Joining it you have “Santa-Fe Trail” and a much covered, and rarely bettered foot stomping version of “Sail Away Ladies”. Of the lesser known tunes “Hang Me” is solid, and with James on lead vocals the boys turn to twin-guitar accompaniment for “Step Stone”, and it too is a colossal piece. Utterly timeless, the aching lyrics and playing that’s a mixture of The Carter Family and Woody Guthrie shaped fare and original James / Sam music the lived in, travel weary lead from James The Fang makes it is one of those songs that grow on you. A real heart stopper.
Adding to the six traditional songs, Jamie and Sam contribute two songs apiece. The former through material ideally suitable for his fiddle, and busy 12-string of his partner James offers an earthy fiddle splashed “Beyond The Walls Of Time” to go with “Tennessee Train”. Barrett for his part has the traditional steeped ballad, mid-paced “Roses On The Dashboard” and with fiddle, and slide guitar rambling western ode “Diamond Horseshoe”. Watch out for tour dates by them the next time James Barrier is over; either with Sam or the Pine Hill Haints.
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