Barrel Flash

REVIEW: Barrel Flash “A Guide to Dancing Alone”


Barrel Flash – A Guide To Dancing Alone

My parents always told me not to prejudge & I didn’t. From the looks of this CD, you’d think the music would be old-time, creaky, hokey & even amateurish but I looked at the cover art & said “Nah, these people are too artistic-minded,” & I crossed my fingers. What a payoff.

From the opener, the Minneapolis trio Barrel Flash has a bright showcase that’s solidly refreshing as The Seekers, Continental Drifters, or The Cowsills.

“Waiting For a Train,” is a great song — loosely arranged with varied voices that blend in an interplay that has an irresistible sound with some soaring female backup This is wonderful — pushed ahead gently by a well-recorded Ross Johnson lead vocal & harmonica.

Whether it’s female or male vocal songs always have attractive vocalizing. “Solitaire Waltz,” has excellent lyrics & features warm-hearted violin. It’s instantly obvious care has been taken in constructing these pieces.

Barrel Flash

There’s little that’s retro despite their generous drawing upon traditional measures. Their ability to polish their varied influences & toss out vibrant sounds is their signature & it’s admirable. They’ve gone into a cauldron of what’s been done & produced something unique. Each song is based on a story form & the music’s applied like a multitude of confections.

This collection is generously loaded — 13-cuts at 54-minutes on A Guide To Dancing Alone (Drops Nov 4-Brilliant Green Records) that features Julia Brown (vocals/piano), Ross Johnson (vocals/acoustic & electric guitars/harmonica) & Priscilla Thomas (vocals/electric bass/guitar).

Many harmonica soloists solo with bluesy runs, grim melancholy sounds & showboating wails, but Johnson is inclined to emit emotional pleasantries through his melodic blowing.

It takes the band to cut 7 to let loose on “Josephine,” though the tune is surrounded by Fairport Convention-early October Project-type traditional vocalizing. A beauty. With “City Kids,” the folk trio touches upon a tune that has a feel that urban groovemeister great Garland Jeffries would appreciate. This is surprisingly cool.

The conclusion is an original — “Starting Over,” with Julia’s vocal & chamber music backing her exceptionally well. Nice surprise.

Musicians – Mandy Fassett (violin/viola/cello), Reid Kruger (drums/recording/editing & mastering), Lauren Piper, Alayna Jacqueline Barnes, Zoe Rodine, Will Dierenfield & Rob Pieh (backing vocals).

Each tune is written individually by the trio, with convincing accomplished instrumental breaks. Each carries its own unique performance vibrancy. The melodies have a cachet of fluidity with splendid vocalizing. “Sara,” even has some explicit language in its jubilant folk reading. A bawdy late-night beer-hall song. Classy songs, with humor & skill.

Highlights – “Waiting For a Train,” “Solitaire Waltz,” “The Commander,” “Riding Away,” “Something About You,” “Josephine,” “Sara,” “City Kids,” & “A Mighty Ocean.”

Music sample & Release Show Invitation:

Color image courtesy: Barrel Flash CD & website. CD @


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