Chicken Barn Heroes- The Green EP

Chicken Barn HeroesChicken Barn Heroes. The Green EP.
Chicken Barn Heroes/Bandcamp, 2013.

Chicken Barn Heroes: http://chickenbarnheroes.tumblr.com/

The Chicken Barn Heroes are a Brooklyn, New York based country, bluegrass, and blues trio formed in 2011.  In the two years since then, they’ve put out now three albums, including their newest, The Green EP.  Using guitar, stand up bass, fiddle, voice, and mando, they pull out everything from traditional ballads to original songs.  While their interests in beaches, barbeque, and Scotch are emblems of “the finer things in life,” their sound is straight up back porch picking, no chaser.  While the image of an upright bass used for Americana music riding on the subway to a gig makes me giggle, I love the mix of urban and rural that this group embodies.  It fits with the trend of urban homesteading and micro-farming that is so near and dear to my heart.  And the band’s name makes me want to work harder for urban chickens to be legalized in Kent.

Everything about this album is what I first fell in love with at the HockHocking Folk Fest (now Nelsonville Music Festival) about new country and folk music- the blending of old and new, reinterpretation of favorites, story-telling, and technical skill without fear of innovation.  This EP is a mix of three traditional songs, two originals, and covers of popular songs.  I dare you to go listen right now and figure which are new and which are old.

Tulsa Time is a Danny Flowers song originally done by Don Williams.  The rearrangement for a trio is a good move and adds depth to this little ditty of relaxation- perfect for summer.  Pie in My Window is a CBH original and has a beautiful narrative feel over top of the mandolin highlights.  The first of the traditional songs- Will the Circle Be Unbroken- has a new twist that freshens it up while retaining the simple beauty of an old classic.  Dating to 1908 or earlier, this piece was written by Ada Habershon as a funeral hymn (albeit one of uplift), but you wouldn’t know it from the sound of this version, and can just enjoy the harmonies.  For those of you that took my challenge, you might think that New York City Blues is another cover, as songs with this title have been done by Merle Haggard to The Yardbirds, but this isn’t your grandmas New York City Blues.  Give it a listen, and check out some of the other songs by this title, and you’ll learn tons of music history while hearing some excellent tunes.  Hey Good Lookin’ is originally a Hank Williams tune, but the Chicken Barn Heroes give it new life for a younger audience.  Long Black Veil, one of my personal favorites on this album, was written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin.  This particular version comes the closest to Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell’s rendition as far as quality goes, but the sounds of the two cuts are very different.  J. J. Cale wrote the final song, Clyde, and CBH really hits it on Clyde to end the EP on an up note.  Gruff voice and strong licks make this really kick, a fitting tribute to an archetypal electric bass musician.

Good tones and great history combine on Chicken Barn Heroes for a strong piece of American music, and if you like music history, maybe a stepping stone to the Lomax sessions for a new generation.

Personnel:  Chris Conly (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Brad Maestas (Mandolin, Back-up Vocals), Jamie Bishop (Bull Fiddle, Back-up Vocals)

Tracks: Tulsa Time, Pie In My Window, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, New York City Blues, Hey Good Lookin’, Long Black Veil, Clyde

 

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