CD REVIEW: Michael Barry - Continuum
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist/Band: Michael Barry
Genre: New Age, Americana, Blues, Rock, Guitar Instrumental
Sounds Like: Eric Clapton, California Guitar Trio Daniel Lanois Early Pink Floyd
Weakness: Repetitive Catalogue, songs and playing style, More instrumentation, Marketability
Born and raised in a small rural town in southeastern Connecticut Michael picked up the guitar at an early age. He played in various "below the radar" bands and in his early twenties embarked on a life changing three year cross country soul search which eventually landed him back on the east coast in Rockbridge County Virginia. It was here that he began to experiment with loop technology and also fulfilled a long held desire to play the lap steel. His latest CD is entitled “Continuum” and was released in 2014. This is his third album to his credit. George Winston appears as a guest musician on Track 4 "Sanctum."
The CD gently takes to flight with hypnotic “Rendezvous”. This song serves up infectious Americana guitar ambience meshed against mesmerizing musical movement, hypnotic rhythm and well placed solos that gently leads you by the hand down the path of musical indulgence. Track 2 “Cause and Effects” changes course a bit with its slamming guitar chops, impressive fretwork painted against a grand mosaic of vivid sound. The upbeat musical flow of this piece brilliantly moves like an ocean across the ears. Track 3 “Clockwise” is an impressive electro-earthy piece that is quite dynamic, full of tasty keyboard chops, and musical peaks and valleys that flow and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. All in all one of my favorite pieces on the CD. This piece is remarkably striking to the ears as well with its Americana Guitar touches and hypnotic vibe. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of a classic California Guitar Trio Daniel Lanois Early Pink Floyd. In my own words - if Eric Clapton released a CD of just guitar work I suspect it would sound a lot lie this. I would classify this music as Americana Guitar-driven Instrumental with a folksy-new age flair. I can also hear experimental type music with classic “George Winston” flair. The CD presents brilliant yet conservative flashes of impressive fretwork and all things instrumentally therapeutic. You will also notice rich layers of instrumentation layered along the way full of dynamics, lap steel, bass, drums, Hammond Organ, and Piano meshed against well placed low end rhythm section and enticing melodies. Barry showcases some impressive playing and feel. His playing might not be as technical as say Adrian Legg however he brings a lot of feel and heart to the freeboard. Michael Barry possess solid musical instincts. From passionate “Sanctum” to melodic “Field That Never Die” to jamming “Shake Rag Shuffle” to striking “Labyrinth” to my favorite piece “Mystified” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “Buried in the Sky” the perfect finale statement for an EP of this caliber.
I don’t like how Track 1 or 2 fade out – they feels somewhat forced and incomplete statements to me. CD and playing style from Barry tends to sound a bit repetitive overall track to track and song to song. Perhaps other folk elements like Mandolin, Pedal Steel, Stand up Bass, Mandolin, 12 string guitar, Harmonica, additional sporadic percussion could bring more variety to the table. Perhaps more dynamic time signatures might also help. Most all the song s are done is easy, straight forward 4/4 rhythms. CD lacks a modern day flair and dynamic especially within the rhythm section. I fully realize this is a subjective art form but many of the aforementioned issues do effect eh CD’s marketability to the masses.
Continuum by Michael Barry is a compelling musical journey. These 13 tracks are extremely therapeutic and many guitar-heads will love it. Its strong suit is its amazing sonic guitar ambience and song for song musical flow – almost like 1 long song. Barry gets high marks from me for his impassioned playing style and touch and clearly plays to his strengths within Americana, Blues, Rock, and New Age Guitar. This CD will be a real joy for those listeners out there who want flowing guitar ambience to fill their sonic space peacefully and unobtrusively. This progressive somewhat journey-some format makes for a great extended play experience. I recommend you just hit play, close your eyes and see where the party takes you.