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Jason Barie’s New Bluegrass Release “Radioactive”

“Calaveras County” opens Jason Barie’s new bluegrass release Radioactive. Barie, aka The Ramblin’ Fiddler, and sets an early tone. Barie’s playing is omnipresent from the outset, diving through the arrangement, and soaring high out of the mix. The instrumental is a spectacular romp through archetypal bluegrass and the exchanges Barie engages in with the guitar are worth the price of purchase alone. It’s an inspired opening salvo for the album and lays a sturdy foundation for everything that follows.

URL: https://jasonbarie.com/

Guest stars Bobby Osborne and Doyle Lawson join Barie for the album’s second track. The Paul Williams penned gem “That’s Why You Left Me So Blue” is Radioactive’s first track with vocals and it’s an excellent way to introduce listeners to that facet of the album’s presentation. Barie’s fiddle playing isn’t as prominent during this song as it is with the opener, but it nevertheless showcases his abiding ability to thrive in a traditional bluegrass band setting.

Barie covers Dr. Ralph Stanley’s “Darling Brown Eyes” with spellbinding results. The moderate pace of the performance allows listeners to focus on the vocals. The phrasing does an exemplary job of invoking Stanley’s classic while supplying enough of a twist on tradition that the cut never sounds like rank imitation. The traditional spiritual “In the Garden” is another instrumental. The supporting musicians retreat into the background and the spotlight falls on Barie as he carries the song’s timeless melody with some of the best fiddle playing recorded for this release. The sensitive rising and falling of the song’s melodic trajectory bewitches you. 

“Bottom of the Ninth” is a dizzying instrumental that shows the flashier side of Barie’s fiddle playing. There’s ample nuance here despite the dizzying pace of the instrumental and it does a lot to embody the edge of your seat excitement that the title implies. “I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name” covers a venerable country music track written by Lee Emerson. It’s not the first time a performer has recognized its greatness; Porter Waggoner and Jesse Colter, among others, have covered this cut.

“The Toolbox” is a classic bluegrass song celebrating and finding significance in life’s simpler things. Barie and his cohorts develop the song with patience and care that pays off for listeners. The specific details layered throughout the lyrics are one of the keys to its success, but it’s another artful and deeply felt vocal that brings those details to life. The breakneck clip and flawless vocal harmonies of the finale “Good Love Gets Better with Time” closes Radioactive on a robust note. It’s a life-affirming final bow from Barie and company that leaves listeners wanting more. We can walk away from this album, however, certain that The Ramblin’ Fiddler will return soon enough.

Barie’s purist pursuit of bluegrass tradition doesn’t mean the songs sound dated. Even the mid-tempo numbers surge forward with natural exuberance and never sound plotted out. Jason Barie has a reputation that grows with every new recording and performance; his latest turn as The Ramblin’ Fiddler is sure to increase his already considerable stature. 

Mindy McCall



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