Off The Record by Mike Farragher
Barleyjuice ready to rock Catskills
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:37 AM
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Summer will be here before you know it, and there is no better place to start the festival season than the place where it all began -- the Catskills.
The folks up in East Durham have yet another high energy set list of Celtic music planned for the 33rod annual East Durham Irish Festival on Saturday and Sunday, May 29 and 30.
The event will feature the likes of the Elders, Black 47, Shilelagh Law, Barleyjuice and Hair of the Dog. If you like things a little less rocking but no less entertaining, check out the Andy Cooney Band, The New York Showband with Tommy Flynn, Jameson’s Revenge or Canada’s Searson.
There is something weird about our Irish music scene. It is hard for bands to break into New York when you’re from Philly with the dividing line being somewhere around Route 195 in Jersey.
Hopefully, the appearance of Barleyjuice on this stage will change that. Their newest album, Bonny Prince Barley, is a Celtic tour de force that serves up a dizzying array of rock, punk, country and trad.
The band is led by Kyf Brewer, an interesting character if ever there was one. You may have heard his roughed up voice announcing on things like VH1's Before They Were Rock Stars and the Dodge commercials. His acting credits include film work on John Waters’ Serial Mom and Fahrenheit 911 as well as playing a cop in NBC's Homicide and a sleazy photographer in CBS' Hack.
He is joined by Keith Swanson on an array of instruments, Billy Dominick on fiddle, Jim Carbomb on whistles, Eric Worthington on bass, and Greg “The Shredder” Shroeder on drums.
Bonnie Prince Barley opens with “Drunard’s Ambassadors,” a gritty rocker that tips the hat to the many fans that show up at their boozy shows. With songs like “Nancy Whiskey,” “Weekend Irish” and “Bleary-Eyed Beauty,” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that their artistic palette is somewhere between the black and tan of a black and tan!
“I describe it as west meets east,” says Brewer during a weekend interview with the Irish Voice.
“In much the same way as I grew up imitating the Rolling Stones, imitating American R&B singers and Dylan, we imitate what we hear coming across from the Celtic nations and make it our own.”
Barleyjuice adds an interesting spin to the Celtic rock vibe, as evidenced in the 10-gallon hat melodies in “Weekend Irish.”
“American country and bluegrass is what happened as a result of the old trad melodies being brought here and played as mountain music,” reasons Brewer.
“Jam with any fiddle player and sooner than later you'll come across the same melodies from both sides of the pond, only they might have different names or variations.
“Most of the country music lovers here don't realize this, but they're catching on, hopefully thanks in part to us. I grew up with the British invasion of the sixties and seventies, but I had a real penchant for old country music and bluegrass. Sorta like when the Beatles covered Carl Perkins!”
Just when you think you have the band all figured out, they throw you a curve ball with a killer cover of The Clash’s “London Calling,” a version that would make the late and great Joe Strummer swell with Celtic pride.
“Not sure the song fits into the mix, but we are huge Clash fans,” says Brewer.
“If you hear us live, you'll undoubtedly hear some Who, some Doors, maybe some Johnny Cash, etc.
“We never take any of it seriously, until people started coming up and asking to buy the album with ‘London Calling’ on it. It wasn't on one, so we put in on one. As Ray Davies said, give the people what they want!’”
Barleyjuice is a crowd pleaser and their spot on the East Durham Memorial Day festivities guarantees a good time! For more information, log onto www.barleyjuice.com.
For information on the East Durham fest, visit www.irishvillageusa.com/memorial-day-festival