Danny Barnes, the unbridled and eclectic west coast banjo man, has a new album on the way. Like most of his recorded work, Man On Fire, features Barnes’ highly original music, and takes his banjo and vocal escapades far beyond any imaginable boundaries.
Heavy hitters abound, with pop/rock icon Dave Matthews producing, Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones providing the bottom, jazz master Bill Frisell on guitar, and Matt Chamberlain on drums. Some of the tracks will challenge bluegrass listeners to rethink what they expect from a five stringer, but as always, a Danny Barnes adventure is well worth the effort.
Over the course of his career, the Texas-born picker’s credits include the founding of Austin’s Bad Livers, a notable output as a solo artist, and receiving the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. Throughout it all, the constant has been a determination to stay true to himself.
In the liner notes to Man On Fire, Danny expounds a bit on why his music sounds the way it does.
“Country, bluegrass, rock and roll, it was all designed to provide real service to humanity, to be a balm against the cruel reality of this physical plane. It was a doorway to a vast cosmos that could give you strength and lift you up. My mother grew up on a sharecropping farm in central Texas, and they’d pull the car up to the house at night and run the radio off the battery just so they could listen to the Grand Ole Opry. People forget how much this music used to mean because nowadays it feels more like advertising or lifestyle branding, but I’m trying to capture that relevance, that spiritual connection, that essence of where it came from.”
The full album won’t hit until next month, but ATO Records has shared this track so our readers could get an advance listen. Hey Man started out with just Barnes and his clawhammer banjo and voice. The file was then shared with Chamberlain who added distant drums from LA, and Frisell, whose guitar was laid down in the Big Apple.