Dean Barnett

Hot Buttered Rum String Band: In These Parts

The Hot Buttered Rum String Band has made a CD I’m sure they feel proud to release, and in many ways I agree that it’s a solid work. But the technical skills and instrumental variety the guys bring to their music cannot compensate for the antiseptic quality of the tunes, nor for the distance the band maintains between itself and its subjects.

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Jeff Austin & Chris Castino: Songs From the Tin Shed

Reviewing Songs From the Tin Shed, a collaboration between The Big Wu’s Chris Castino and Jeff Austin of the Yonder Mountain String Band, promised to be a no-brainer, a work by representatives of two of today’s hottest jambands. I expected pure acoustic gold with this record. Unfortunately, the chaff prevails.

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Tim O’Brien: Traveler

Tim O’Brien has spent most of his life on the road. Thankfully, when he sets his hand to writing about travel, the result is a wonderful montage that captures both giddy fun and personal costs the road extracts.

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Todd Sheaffer: Dream of Love – Live From Whitney Chapel

Recorded in 1999 after the dissolution of Todd Sheaffer’s old band, From Good Homes, this performance predates Railroad Earth but stands as a document of Sheaffer’s nascent talents and burgeoning skills that play such a pivotal role in the RRE sound today.

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Mindy Smith: One Moment More

Backed by remarkably accomplished musicians, including acoustic guitar role model Bryan Sutton and steel guitar master Dan Dugmore, Ms. Smith seems satisfied with pretty acoustic arrangements that only rarely give way to more aggressive expressions. It’s not a bad formula, as shown in “Angel Doves,” but it dominates the disc until the listener’s stupor is interrupted by the processed vocals of “Hard to Know,” a near-rocker that would be far more convincing if Ms. Smith’s tenuous voice could carry the voltage she wrote into the tune.

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