Jason Barie’s 2019 release, Pieces, was highly regarded by bluegrass fans for its all-star guests, along with material that was firmly rooted in traditional stylings. Barie’s latest effort Radioactive successfully repeats that formula, but with an arguably stronger song selection than the previous project.
The recording opens with Calaveras County, one of several original tunes written by Jason. Featuring Barie alongside Michael Cleveland on twin fiddles, this track sets the stage for everything that is to come. With clawhammer banjo playing from Josiah Tyree, and additional instrumental support from resophonic guitarist Josh Swift and bassist Randy Barnes, this piece firmly defines Barie’s sense of traditionalism.
That’s Why You Left Me So Blue comes from the repertoire of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. While the song was written and recorded by Paul Williams with the group in 1952, it’s sung here by Bobby Osborne, who was Williams’ predecessor in the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. Unsurprisingly, Osborne delivers a great performance. This track also features Doyle Lawson on harmony vocals along with Jessie Baker on banjo, and Jason on fiddle, mandolin, guitar, bass, percussion, and harmony vocals.
Although Keep A Memory comes from the pen of Carter Stanley, it’s performed here in the vein of a Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver song. Featuring Doyle on lead vocals and Russell Moore on tenor vocals, this track will be especially enjoyed by those who love the recordings Moore appeared on with Lawson in the 1980s. The instrumental backing is appropriately provided by Jessie Baker and Barie, who were part of Quicksilver in the early 2010s, giving this piece a truly authentic sound.
Darling Brown Eyes is another song from the Stanley canon. Performed here by Danny Davis and Don Rigsby, this is a powerful track, featuring incredible vocal harmony all throughout.
In The Garden highlights Jason Barie’s instrumental abilities. Featuring Barie on every instrument except bass by Randy Barnes, this familiar hymn is a beautiful example of the tone that Jason can pull from the fiddle.
I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name features the great Paul Williams on lead vocals. At eighty seven years of age, Williams still has a phenomenally clear voice. With tenor harmony from John Meador, this is another standout track.
The Toolbox, written by Dennis Duff, features Barie on lead vocals. A sentimental song about the rewards of hard work, Mike Rogers and Adam McIntosh’s harmony vocals comment Barie’s baritone voice really well.
Speaking of vocals, I Wish I Loved Somebody Else Not You features Tim Raybon singing all of the lead and harmony parts. While it does have more of a traditional country feel, it’s hard to imagine anyone else singing this song.
The project closes with the fast barn burner, Good Love Gets Better With Time. Featuring Jeff Parker and Jake Vanover on vocals, this track ends the recording in grand fashion. This song also features superb banjo playing from Joe Dean.
Radioactive is a project filled with energy and top tier picking and singing. Jason has once again gathered an excellent group of musicians and vocalists to present first rate material from beginning to end. This recording should not be overlooked!