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Music Review - `The Red Wheelbarrow` by Bobbo Byrnes (lz)

Bobbo Byrnes --The Red Wheelbarrow   (click on image to watch video)

 18 Aug 2019



Inspired by a poem called “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams, Americana auteur Bobbo Byrnes not only had a tattoo embossed on his left arm but opted to use its message to fuel his creativity. The point of the poem was, in essence, a variation of the Nike slogan “Just do it.” It initially appears to be incomplete -- “So much depends on...,” but in essence, Williams was encouraging his readers to just get on with their art without any preconceived notions, and let others accept or reject it for what it is later on.


That attitude is evident throughout The Red Wheelbarrow, a mostly upbeat set of songs that veer in and out of the country crossover mode that Byrnes’ has made his stock in trade since early on. The most obvious example of his ability to paint outside the lines occurs within his effusive take on Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain,” featuring none other than Roxy’s erstwhile guitarist Phil Manzanera reprising the electrifying embellishment that graced the original. Indeed, Byrnes enlists an array of distinguished guests with similar pedigrees here -- Wilco’s Ken Coomer, the Wallflowers’ Rami Jaffee and wife Tracy Byrnes, among the many -- and the rugged arrangements and uptempo embellishment is evident in such songs as “Look for It,” “Part-Time Cowboy,” “Lovers,” and “Looking at the World Thru a Windshield,” among the many. Likewise, a heartfelt take on John Prine’s weary and reflective “Mexican Home” brings things back to earth, an apt reflection of Byrnes’ appreciation for heartland happenstance. The song that follows, Byrnes’ own “Mrs. What’s His Name” sums up those sentiments succinctly.

Given his enthusiasm and determination to do what Williams suggested in the poem of the same name, The Red Wheelbarrow offers another obvious example of Bobbo Byrnes’ astute ability to share optimism and possibility through songs that rock with both desire and determination. His knowing attitude boasts infectious energy that surges from start to finish. Consider The Red Wheelbarrow an essential acquisition, and every one of Byrnes’ earlier efforts to be of similar standing as well. Whether the wider world recognizes it or not, he ought to be considered an essential Americana master.


 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

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