Sometimes life is like the desert, a vast nothingness, arid and inhospitable with very little nourishment along the way. We depend on secret places, unexpected oases and small miracles of nature to give us sanctuary. Michael Barry-Rec's new album Streams in the Desert seems to be perfect for the task. His contemporary instrumental venture into the musical equivalent of life giving waters is his best album to date. His previous release On The Road To North Mountain was sublime, but the new one has more funk, lots more energy, some electronics and several major accompaniments including bassist Travis Weaver and legendary pianist George Winston. The music unfolds like an expedition, over various terrains and in different climates, somewhere from bluesy to contemporary to almost cinematic. All is guaranteed to slake your musical thirst.
The opening cut is called Pickin' Up the Pieces and it is a jouncy tune replete with steel guitars, banjo and bass. It has an up-tempo that says this is traveling music. We go from bright city lights to the twilight, but not without a burst of energy and a defiant swagger.
The sound of an old victrola echoes the past in the sad, soft tune Memory Rain. This is one of Michael’s best contemporary pieces and he has captured the bittersweet sense of reminiscences and the pain of loss quite well. It segues almost seamlessly in to the next track Saturation Determination that is a bit more upbeat, but with a no nonsense resolve to get back on track and point us in the right direction. The power of the song also suggests something unstoppable, a force to be reckoned with.
Diamond Hill sounds like a destination song with a lot of fun along the way. The openness of the desert and the bright sunshine mix it up to give us the green light so to speak to open our spirits to new discoveries of the heart and soul.
Better Angels has a New Age feel to it, which was wholly unexpected on the album, but not unwelcomed. Of course that was only in the intro. The flowing guitar piece transformed into a passionate ballad about unseen forces. It is about having bad luck and looking for a helping hand and perhaps getting it.
With a moderate synthesized string background, whining steel guitars and an undulating melody, the title tune Streams in the Desert closes the album. This one is about hope. It is about digging until you find the answer, whether it be water, grace or the realization of your dreams. It is the sound of holding on long enough to satisfying the need. It is not always the case, but Michael saved the best for last.
It has been my experience that the innocuousness of desert streams can be deceiving. Here and there lay patches of green, sometimes sheltering more life than we can see. Washes of sand and rock are exposed, and sometimes the dry streambeds hide precious gems and even gold. Nevertheless, take care, for unexpected flashfloods can wash away even the most solid of barriers. All this is a tribute to the power of Streams in the Desert. For its liveliness and passion, I recommend Michael Barry-Rec's energizing album.
a review by RJ Lannan from
Zone Music Reporter
Click on the title of any track below to hear samples:
Up the Pieces
Review from Gary Hill of Music Street Journal
Sometimes words just don't do justice. Such is the case here. If I had to describe this music on it's own merits I'd have to say that a healthy helping of instrumental folk music with hints of blues and country is combined with arrangements that often times call to mind early Pink Floyd. That comes close, but it really does not convey just how strong this disc is...
Review from Prognaut Magazine
...the whole album is a highlight and one of the very few that gets played in one listen rather than sporadically over a course of time. The music just flows with a familiar feeling that you can’t help but keep listening up til the end. This makes On The Road To North Mountain one of the better independent, even major releases that has crossed my path in a long while.
Review from Floyd Bledsoe of Progressive Ears Magazine.
I get quite a few CDs sent to me for reviews here on this web site. I try to check out every one that comes in even if it's just to skim through the tracks to get a feel of what the music is like. Very rarely does something knock me off my feet like this disc from Virginian guitarist Michael Barry-Rec. I had originally intended to just sample a small portion but once it was on I was almost mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the music. By the third or fourth track, I was completely hooked. Ironically, if I had been given a description of this music I probably wouldn't have been all that interested. This is music that needs to be heard and experienced... click here for the full review!
Click on the bolded songs for sound bytes:
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