There's a certain "band next door" feel to the Barrel Boys. They may be accomplished musicians with tight harmonies and great arrangements, but their music is also brimming with the kind of personality that makes you want to buy them a beer and hear their life stories. Though they've got a number of great recordings under their belts, the Barrel Boys' most recent album, Cold Spring, is their best yet.
The Toronto-based bluegrass band's five lead singers — Tim O'Reilly (bass), Ben Wright (guitar), Rob McLaren (banjo), Kyle Kirkpatrick (Dobro) and Nathan Smith (fiddle) — share songwriting credits on this 100% original album, which has a great patchwork feel as a result. There's plenty here for bluegrass lovers, like the banjo-heavy "I Get By," sweet tenor vocals on "Over the Waterfall," great fiddling on "Bacon in the Cornbread," the almost John Hartford-esque "No Shoes Blues" and a gospel number, "End of the World."
Jamgrass fans will love the interplay of banjo, fiddle and Dobro on "Everything Will Heal," the bluesy "Run For Water" and the carefree groove of "Dance Around," but the band's Canadian folk roots leanings are obvious, too — so it's perhaps unsurprising that many of the Toronto band's songs ("Lookout Mountain," "Someday Soon," "Split and Stacked" and the title track, "Cold Spring") are about leaving the city and spending time in the woods. It's hard to pick a best track off this album, but the slow heartbreak anthem "Bored, Broke, and Sober" might be it, showcasing the band's great harmony vocals and the knack they have for dynamics.
Cold Spring is a real gem of original music. The album is also proof that Toronto's surprisingly vibrant bluegrass scene just keeps on getting better. (Independent)