CD Reviews

BARBWIRE: Long Hard Ride

Billed as San Diego’s prime country band, Barbwire is a group of veteran musicians who, since coming together in 2008, have snagged recognition and awards without doing anything particularly new. What they have done is stick to the basics, avoiding the temptation to get too deep into either the topics or sounds that better fit hard rock. They seem to recognize that they have, in James Cramer, a lead vocalist that takes them to the Bakersfield city limits, so why backtrack to LA?

On their recent EP Long Hard Ride, Cramer handles the vocal slot and rhythm guitar, while lead guitarist is Blayne Marleaux, Arnold Madruga handles bass, Mike Brozowski drums, and triple threat Tom Dillon plays fiddle, slide, and steel guitar. Jeff Berkley captured this music and the only quibble is that there isn’t more: the three original tracks here are more of a sneak preview of a band full of promise than a document.

“Favorite Song” is a strong start that sounds like a mission statement—they are guitar-wielding road warriors, “chain-smoking mongrels hoping this old Ford will get us home.” It conveys a wistful sense that only years of playing gigs in every kind of nice hall and hell hole can bring. The title tune punches up the beat, and adds harmonies on the chorus as well as nice lap slide touches. The commitment to country forms comes through on “Whiskey Wishes,” a tasty waltz that fits right in the tradition of so many before it—dedicated to the bottle, on the occasion of another heartbreak.

The brief taste that Barbwire’s Long Hard Ride gives listeners will have them thirsty for more.

See Barbwire live on December 1 at Waypoint Saloon in Ramona and also at Santee’s Full Circle Saloon, December 7.

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