For the past few years, The Barrel Boys have been charming the Toronto bluegrass scene. The five-piece string band blends bluegrass, classic country, old-time and Americana, all with a youthful energy and levity. Their latest release, Cold Spring, was produced by Ivan Rosenberg and recorded at SoundStill in Toronto. The chemistry between the players feels palpable as does the confidence and skill that resonates in the sound.
The album showcases their apt musical talents while striking a balance between the influences of traditional styles and modern malaise. “Bored, Broke, and Sober” is a classic there’s-a-tear-in-your-beer-type ode to heartbreak and drunk numbness. “I Get By”, on the other hand, brings a tongue-in-cheek relatability to the inevitable high rent and raccoon disturbances that mar the experience of many a Toronto resident.
The gospel-tinged “End of the World”, which uses grandiose biblical allusions, feels like an upbeat exploration into the apocalypse and, speaking with our current news cycle in mind, the end of the world doesn’t feel all that hard to connect with.
Other songs, like “Over the Waterfall” and “Someday Soon” dive into returns and escapes. The romanticism of worlds beyond the cityscape, hometown humdrums, and countryside dotages. The experiences that are simpler, unassuming and comforting in their predictability.
The escapism here mirrors the tone of the album itself. Cold Spring surrounds listeners in the warm vocals, virtuoso playing and picking, and wide range of subjects that take you from bar stools and dance floors to river beds and mountain tops, running the emotional gamut along the way.
By Elizabeth Andrews