The Barr Brothers: Queens of the Breakers (Secret City)

Americana troupe go up a level to deliver excellent third LP

Released Oct 13th, 2017 via Secret City / By Jethro West
The Barr Brothers: Queens of the Breakers (Secret City) Before Queens of the Breakers, The Barr Brothers’ back catalogue already comprised of two brilliantly eclectic albums, full of musical ingenuity and intrigue. Doing it right a third time was always going to be a massive undertaking. However, perhaps the fact that namesake siblings Brad and Andrew Barr along with harpist Sarah Pagé went into record number three songless suggests that Queens of the Breakers was only ever going to be as raw and creative as its predecessors.

The Barr Brothers began 2017’s effort off the back of newfound fatherhood and having found themselves living in a nation that was politically beginning to boil under the surface. Evidently, the world events of 2016 and 2017 along with personal life-changing ones were going to be inspiration enough and has left the LP richly scattered throughout with highs and lows of emotion, nostalgia and political stigma. It all starts with Defibrillation which, whilst not being the super-charged opener you might expect, beautifully sets an enchanting yet triumphing precedent that re-establishes the band’s sound amongst the best of modern Appalachian folk.

Look Before It Changes follows in a smooth continental-esque swoon steeped in longing vocals and tumbling acoustic guitar: look before it changes / because when it changes, it changes for good. Third on the album, Song That I Hear feels like the album’s break of day that quite literally trumps the genre in a brazen recollection of Brad’s arrival in Montreal and all the different ways he fell in love.

However, it’s with Maybe Someday that The Barr Brothers really get into the groove that oozed out of much of their debut album. Featuring a killer riff and a stonking harmonica solo to boot, it doesn’t seem to matter that Brad wishes he 'knew the magic words / To dry up all our tears'. In hot pursuit, Kompromat rolls on like your perfect road-trip companion. Literally meaning 'compromising material' in Russian politics, The Barr Brothers make a far from subtle stab at Donald J. fashioned in plucky country rock - 'You got one hand on the driver’s wheel / In the other a noose'.

Much of what’s to follow in the record ebbs and flows with dreamy complexion including the likes of Hideous Glorious (which is more glorious than anything else) and You Would Have to Lose Your Mind - sure to be fan favourite. Yet with it’s heavy distortion and masterful use of percussion, It Came to Me is one of the record’s best and is just as infectious as anything that The Black Keys have to offer.

Queens of the Breakers, with all its wonderful twists and turns, is a perfectly formed record and certainly sees The Barr Brothers return in top form. Catch them in early 2018 where they hit the road once more with a headline tour of Europe.