Album Review – The Barlow’s “Horseshoe Lounge”
When you think of Colorado, you think of rugged landscapes and rugged folks chiseled out of stone, and steeled in the gauntlet of steep grades and narrow passes. Such is the case with The Barlow. When frontman and songwriter Shea Boynton isn’t packing gear in and out of clubs in the Rocky Mountain region, he’s working in the Colorado oil fields. It’s that kind of blue collar attitude that tattoos the songs of The Barlow with the busted knuckles and brow sweat of authenticity.
Drawing influences from both their native environs, as well as bordering states like Texas for a more open sound, and Wyoming for some Western flavor—and then hopscotching a few states to draw on Southern rock as well—The Barlow is one of those bands you immediately warm up to from their musical energy and infectious sound. They call it Colorado country, and if it wasn’t a thing before, it is now.
It’s really the amalgam of many of the best music influences out there in independent country at the moment that makes The Barlow’s second record Horseshoe Lounge such an enjoyable listen. “Ain’t Ever Comin’ Round” reminds you of the Tyler Childers sound with the fiddle. “Before You Know” calls to mind the harder cuts of the Turnpike Troubadours. “Call It a Win” could be from William Clark Green. “Longest Days” has a bit of a bluegrass feel.
Throwing a song in there from Chris Knight in the form of “Homesick Gypsy,” and including the excellent steel guitar of Zachary Moulton of Mike and the Moonpies on many of the tracks makes Horseshoe Lounge a familiar cocktail of some of your most favorite musical elements, while also holding onto enough originality to result in a sound all its own.
Many of the songs of the record are about making music on the road, and the sacrifices, challenges, and dreams that come with it, including the Chris Knight cover, and the final song on the album, “Part of the Band” where Shea Boynton sings along with Mike Harmeier of the Moonpies. Though the songwriting approach definitely falls within the wisdom of writing about what you know about and lends an overall theme to this record, some of the writing might not connect with all audiences. Nonetheless, the words are solid throughout Horseshoe Lounge, and perhaps reach their peak in the classic country crier, “The Gallows.”
Doubling up on Shea Boynton’s singing parts with harmonies brings out his vocal strengths, and this well-produced album really doesn’t turn in a bad note. In fact what might be the best asset of Horseshoe Lounge is how you can tell they poured their very soul into this album to present the best representation of their music as possible, nailing every solo, reaching out to big time pickers to put their signature stamps on the record, and not settling for anything but what was right for the song.
Complain about the inequities in country music all you want. But making music is a privilege not a right. And to earn that right you have to be willing to put it all on the line, and pour your guts into songs and performances. With Horseshoe Lounge, The Barlow do that very thing, and make their best case to be considered much more than just a regional Rocky Mountain country band.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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The Barlow is Shea Boynton, Ben Richter, Brad Johnson, and Troy Scoope.
Purchase from The Barlow
February 17, 2021 @ 9:20 am
I’ll check it out. After your first paragraph, I was hopeful we had another blue-collared, workman anthem band like Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters (the way you set it up). However, I remember those early American Aquarium albums always being bogged down by “songs from the road” that were un-relatable. But, any album with a Chris Knight song will get its fair listen.
February 17, 2021 @ 9:23 am
Nick Dittmieier and the Sawdusters would be a good comparison here. I don’t to discourage anyone from listening with my observation about the writing. That was more of a constructive criticism. The music is what really draws up into this album. Writing is good too, but could broaden its themes.
February 17, 2021 @ 10:05 am
A lot of times when Trig throws up a review before I even read it I go on Spotify and give it a listen. Occasionally I think “meh…..it’s ok” and I don’t come on here and say anything. Other times I know I have to give it time and maybe rearrange tracks etc…. This is neither of those. Loved it on first spin! Great songs, up tempo toe tappers that I like. Don’t think I hear a bad one. Can’t wait play it in the car with a little volume. This is a legitimate “8”. Love the album cover too!!
February 17, 2021 @ 12:16 pm
Like JB, I usually I pull up spotify as soon as I see Trig’s review of a band/artist I’ve never heard of. Sometimes the artist doesn’t grab me for whatever reason, which is always a shame as I have a long commute every day and new music is always welcome. This ain’t one of those times! I’m digging it so far and will likely be jammin’ to it on the way home today.
February 17, 2021 @ 12:42 pm
The music is solid. Absolutely solid. Great sound. Vocals are just kind of ok. Might grow on me more as I listen but going back to that sound of theirs is enough to overcome the singing. Which isn’t bad but not on the same level as the sound.
February 17, 2021 @ 1:44 pm
Seems to be the common theme, to want a band to be good, only to be disappointed when you give them a spin. 100% NOT these guys. It reminds me of the first time I heard Flatland Calvary or Brent Cobb and was instantly hooked. The whole damn album is good on every level in my opinion. It gives you a refreshing roller coaster of rippin’ guitar/drum tunes and easy listening acoustic tunes to keep you engaged throughout the album. The song, ‘Before You Know’ is so lyrically and musically mesmerizing- I wonder if this is a real story about him almost dying in a car crash on a pheasant hunt.
February 17, 2021 @ 4:16 pm
Great band, great dudes. Well deserved recognition here.
February 17, 2021 @ 4:25 pm
great feel, really good. singer is great. thanks for the intro definitely , worth buying .
February 17, 2021 @ 5:15 pm
When perusing for good music, I look for dynamics and this band hit it good. What I liked most of all about the album is it’s hidden energy – from the front mans mic down to the crazy lics on the snares edge. The Barlow has something happening here that I haven’t heard in a while. Its homegrown sound leaves you anticipating “whats next”, then here comes the final track, WOW. Anytime a song remains in my head through the day (driving me crazy), its a keeper. Good work fellas.
February 17, 2021 @ 5:40 pm
Thanks for the review, Trig.
Looking forward to giving this one a spin.
February 17, 2021 @ 6:44 pm
Who produced this? The second track above is great. Wish top 40 radio tracks had that quality country sound.
Also, when I think of Colorado I picture overcrowding, high housing prices, and skinny stoners demanding minimum wage increases. But maybe that’s just Denver.
February 18, 2021 @ 7:14 am
“When you think of Colorado, you think of … rugged folks chiseled out of stone”. Nah, I think of granola yuppies, faux hipsters and hippies, California transplants, and people who moved to a huge crowded city on the plains to “connect with nature.”
Sincerely, a Wyomingite
February 18, 2021 @ 7:18 am
But Boynton and the Barlow seem like the real deal, and this is fantastic stuff.
February 18, 2021 @ 8:19 am
Ya’ll people need to spend some time on the Western slope. Denver is L.A. East.
February 18, 2021 @ 7:44 am
Listening to this now. This is great. It’s got a great sound. It’ll take a few more listens to see how I track with the lyrics, but it’s one of the better new albums I’ve heard this year for my tastes.
I will take more like it, please and thank you.
February 18, 2021 @ 1:24 pm
And great to hear Mike from the Moonpies on a “Part Of The Band” too!
February 18, 2021 @ 11:40 pm
“They call it Colorado country, and if it wasn’t a thing before, it is now.”
That’s a definite seal of approval from you, Trig. I just listened to ‘Gallows’ and I’m definitely interested.
February 19, 2021 @ 8:14 am
Good stuff. Thanks