It is an interesting fact that Canadians often do "Americana" better than Americans. Think The Sadies, Cowboy Junkies, The Tragically Hip circa "Wheat Kings" and of course giants like the Band and Neil Young. Montreal's Barr Brothers are firmly in this tradition comprising Brad Barr (guitar, vocals), Andrew Barr (drums, percussion, vocals, keys), Sarah Page (harp, vocals, percussion) and Andres Vial (keys, bass, vibes, percussion, vocals). "SLEEPING OPERATOR" is the bands sophomore album. It has been two years in the making and sees the Brothers breath out in terms of their sound employing a eclectic array of horns, marimba, ngoni, hammered dulcimer and pedal steel to the mix. The upshot is a wonderful album where the strength of songs are never lost amongst the sheer variety of the musical expanse which anchor them.
The lovely flowing harp instrumental opener segues into the big pop anthem "Love is Enough" full of ascending peaks and as wide open as the Canadian prairies. Go over to the NPR music sit and watch them perform it free. Those who loved the acoustic feel of their debut will find plenty here to enjoy. The rolling country of "Even the darkness has arms" is utterly infectious, while the standout track "How the Heroine Dies" reminds you of the ghostly mood that the Low Anthem conjured on 2009's "Oh My God Charlie Darwin". It is a soaring lament that floats on a wonderfully sensitive vocal and is anchored with brilliant lyrics. Other tracks worthy of inspection include the highly melodic "Wolves" and the fascinating rumbling blues shuffle of "Half Crazy". The album is rounded off by the pounding "England" which builds to a mighty crescendo and the gentle hymnal acoustics of "Please let me let it go" infused with the bands warm harmonies drawing the curtain down on a real surprise package.
The Barr Brothers "Sleeping Operator" is one album that you may wish to place on a wish list or seek out on Spotify before investment. It is a record that grabs you by the the lapels and doesn't really let go of its grip through the course of 13 fine songs. Allegedly the band had 40 or more up their sleeve which suggest more great music to come once you have digested this feast.
Review by Red on Black