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Barton Carroll
Together You And I
Skybucket Records
www.bartoncarroll.com


There are few who can turn a phrase in a song and make it more desolate and aching than can Barton Carroll. On Together You And I, his fourth full-length recording, Carroll touches on everything from being enamored of women beyond one's means, hating one's kin, and not being able to dance… and that's just inside the first three songs. Carroll has always had a penchant for making words seem magical and dark while setting them to music that moves along quite nicely, very melodic and mostly acoustic guitar based. On this new record, however, Carroll takes a slightly different turn.

The new songs largely lack the brilliantly articulated fingerpicking of much of his earlier work, and instead are filled with somber tones that make the dark songs sound that much darker. The real exception is album opener "The Poor Boy Can't Dance", a song that has the brushy shuffle and acoustic guitars that the world has come to expect from Barton Carroll. On top of the wonderful imagery of the lyrics and the upbeat swing of the song there is the aural addition of clarinet, lending the song an old-timey feel that is only exacerbated during the solo as a baritone horn fills in the lower registers. Carroll sings about being far from home and loving a girl that is somewhat unattainable - one of his more common themes - and fills the song with lyrical jibes that are simply stunning. Carroll begins a new experiment with his voice on "Rich As A Rolling Stone" as he begins to drag certain words and odd syllables out a bit longer than would normally be comfortable. The overall effect of this phenomenon, throughout this new record, is one of eerie tension, the kind that begs the ear to listen just a bit more carefully. Again, Carroll explores the dynamic of a dead-end relationship in a candid and spectacularly poetic manor that is rarely matched in popular music. The album turns incredibly dark on "Shadowman" where Barton turns in the kind of biographical storytelling that makes it very difficult for people to believe that his songs are not autobiographical. The story of how a younger brother comes to hate his older brother and the inward turmoil that gets turned around during the story is amazingly well done, as Barton delivers his last really finely-picked acoustic notes of the record.

"Do You Want To Get Out Of Here?" is filled with electric guitars and an earthy alt. country vibe similar to that bandied about by the likes of Michael J. Sheehy. The Forties' big band vibe continues on the smoky "Let's Get On With The Illusion", a track that prominently features the vocals of Anna-Lisa Notter, creating a true duet in the old school sense of the word. Evoking a Fifties' rock'n'roll vibe on "Past Tense", Carroll plays with language in a whimsical way that expertly reveals his verbosity and abilities at bending the language to his whims. The remainder of the album runs its course from the straight ahead modern rock of "Monday Night" to the downbeat and melancholy "Something Good", before hitting on a flute and bell-filled Sixties' psych-folk vibe on "This Town Is Cold". The album wraps with the title track, and what a doozy it turns out to be. The guitars are fingerpicked, yet dark and moody; the vocals slip and slide in the eeriest of ways as Carroll weaves his tail of the inmate and his love. Anna-Lisa Notter once more makes an appearance, lending her character-filled and earthy voice to the downbeat and tragically human tale.

Barton Carroll has outdone himself with his latest record… he has moved beyond Appalachian troubadour and made his way to places his contemporaries would fear to tread. Covering musical ground that spans almost a century of American music and filled with songs that are dressed in Carroll's seemingly unique ability to capture deeply empathetic stories, Together You And I is an immediately epic record. There are few things to be considered hooks in these tales of woe and human endeavor, but the stories will stick with you, echoing in your heart and mind for days after listening.

-David DeVoe

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