(4 / 5)
Lovely blend of voices and some very fine and uber-classy singer-songwriter material, on an album that shines very brightly indeed. US duo Phil Barry and Sarah Fuerst call themselves, “folk duo from Kalamazoo”. There’s a heck of a lot more to the talented pair than that simple label describes.
Americana, folk-pop, roots….call it whatever floats your boat; this is smashing stuff and these two are a genuinely great find. New to me, very glad to make their acquaintance. “Songs For Mixed Company”, their debut full length album, follow-up to a self-titled EP which came out in June 2015.
The pair formed their formal musical partnership in January 2015, after 16 years of working together on various projects. Phil and Sarah call themselves after the 1974 Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges bank heist movie, “Thunderbolt & Lightfoot”.
That film had a budget of $2.2 million and grossed circa $25 million in revenue. This album probably cost a fraction of that budget to make, and it is definitely not gonna buy them a small island or a fleet of flash cars. But if there’s any justice, it will pay for itself and put these very gifted guys on the musical map near and far.
Think a male and female, Americana and alt. folk version of The Everly Brothers, as regards the sweet, sweet close harmonies. The material mixes it up from stripped back acoustic vibes to fuller band. The production values are faultless. Produced by Michael Fuerst, Ian Gorman and Thunderbolt & Lightfoot. There’s a real intimacy from the vocals, and live, they use one microphone for them both to sing into, to capture the subtle nuances that they recreate here on record.
In some ways, mainly the gentleness of the material and the girl/boy harmonies with such palpable chemistry between them, put me in mind of the UK’s Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, former singers from the hit UK pop band The Beautiful South. Now doing the duo thing together and scoring hit records and lots of profile.
This stuff is perhaps less commercial and “poppy” than the UK pair, but just as classy, just as accessible and more than deserves the same levels of success as the Brit’s are getting. Jacqui and Paul: former Beautiful South; Phil and Sarah: Beautiful stuff.
It’s ultra-chilled, could not be more laid back and it sounds totally innate; like they are being true to themselves and not chasing trends or success. Making music they love for like-minded folk. I’m with them, for sure…
On these 10 cuts, Phil sings and plays guitar. Sarah multi-skills on vocals, bass, marimba, keyboards, mellotron and whistle. Guest players adding their magic are, Geoffrey Halsey on drums, Jeff Moehle on drums, percussion, shaker and tambourine, Michael Fuerst strings on “Sad Song” and cello on “I’m On Fire”. Mike Lynch on organ, piano and accordion.
Phil was a founding member of award-winning rock band Knee Deep Shag, former touring guitarist for RCA recording artist Rachael Yamagata, and currently a member of Americana super-group Corn Fed Girls. Phil’s solo album, “Between The Carolinas”, was released by Princess Records and has been featured on MTV, VH1,, Oxygen and Showtime.
Sarah played electric bass for the indie rock band Doxie, who released an acclaimed self-titled, full length album with Grass Records and toured the Midwest and East Coast of the US. Sarah is also a long standing member of Corn Fed Girls, supplying upright bass and vocal harmony.
On the duo’s website, they suggest tracks 1, 2, 5, 8 from this album: “Let’s Be Friends”, “Miss Me”, “Goodbye Is Not The End”, and “Sweetest Baby”. They are wrong. So wrong! It’s a travesty not to be suggesting ALL 10 tracks; it is THAT good.
Very special indeed, 32 minutes and 43 seconds that conjuring up a serenity and peacefulness that is not often replicated, and I have a feeling in my water that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet from this pair – and there’s a lot more great things to come. Hope so.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’