Hearing Aide: Danny Barnes “Got Myself Together (10 Years Later)”

He’s collaborated with the likes of Dave Matthews, Mike Gordon and the Butthole Surfers, been branded the world’s best banjoist by Texas roots-rocker Robert Earl Keen and honored by comedian-musician Steve Martin himself with a prize of excellence in the stringed instrument. And in true Danny Barnes fashion, the Pacific Northwest banjo virtuoso broke his six-year recording absence not with an offering of polished originals, but with a reworking of his 2005 album Get Myself Together.

The new solo project, Got Myself Together (10 Years Later), released November 2015 on Eight 30 Records, is a collection of 12 tracks, plus a nostalgic bonus cover of “I’m Convicted” from his former punkgrass band the Bad Livers (see the official music video below). Re-recorded to give that unplugged in-your-living room aesthetic, the album is now a more stripped down compilation of the narratives that Barnes has performed onstage for the past decade. The result is a set of acoustic songs that no longer need supporting instruments, because Barnes has developed each tune’s character and lets his picking, plucking, thrumming and bashing steal the show; and his aged vocals add honeyed warmth like the smooth, spicy finish of mature bourbon.

Barnes takes listeners on a 42-minute sepia-toned adventure of offbeat tales featuring jail cells, plowing fields and mashing moonshine told in his genre-bending style of noise rock with Grand Ole Opry roots and computerized elements he’s coined as “barnyard electronics.” A vagrant when it comes to tradition, the gypsy banjo player roams as he pleases from light-hearted jalopies like “Get Myself Together” to strumming the breezy, satirical “Get Me Out of Jail” and preaching the Delta blues in “Let Your Light Shine On Me” to high-lonesome hillbilly proclamations in “Corn Kingdom Come.” The lauded singer-songwriter arranges parched visions of old-time Appalachia in the instrumental “Cumberland Gap,” where the original evoked more of an Old World Irish flair, and songsmiths the constant sorrow of modern man in “Wasted Mind” and “Get It On Down the Line.”

While at the core the sounds on this record are an acquired taste, this anniversary release is worth the listen—or multiple revisits—to solely marvel at the documented growth of this master artist as he continues to reinterpret himself after 40 years of making music.

Key Tracks: Cumberland Gap, Wasted Mind, Get It On Down the Line, Big Shoe