Kris Barras is good with his hands. If one has the appropriate ticket, they can still be “floored” by Barras and company, but will likely not have to deal with the after effects of being put to the canvas. Josiah J. Manning, Elliott Blacker and Will Beavis come along to lend their talents in an effort to produce an album that delivers in quality and authenticity. Unpretentiously composed, Light It Up collects 13 originally-penned songs that wed technical abilities with a country-blues sensibility that eludes so much contemporary music.
The opening slide-grind of “What You Get” quickly morphs into a fluid guitar riff. Confident without being braggadocious, Barras allows his vocals and guitar the correct amount of space. Aggressive when appropriate and a bit more subtle when the song requires it, his guitar shines through while allowing the other instrumentation its place. Perhaps the best song on the album, “Broken Teeth” provides a window into the psyche of a man who was once a professional fighter. Proclaiming, “It don’t bother me, cracked knuckles and broken teeth,” the band combines great backing vocals over a picked rhythm that drives the tune forward.
Throughout the collection, the skillful mesh of voices pleasingly fills out the soundscape. Barras is certainly in the forefront, but on songs like “Ignite (Light It Up),” Manning’s organ work not only introduces the piece, but also serves as the lynchpin that allows the other players freedom to express. “6AM” balances hard-rock guitar and distorted vocals with a country-infused banjo and outstanding, backing “whoh ohhs.” Barras’s solo slinks into the mix and sounds almost liquid. A few tracks later, listeners are once again treated to some wonderful playing during the apex of the album. “Let The River Run Through You” features a guitar solo that probably could have lasted a while longer.
Perhaps it is this restraint that makes the set such an enjoyable listen. Songs reach great highs without dragging or being self-indulgent. There are several points where listeners might want just a little bit more from not only Barras, but the band as a whole. This is not a criticism, rather an acknowledgement that the writing and the music is great.
“Pride Is Forever” feels like an encore and it fits well as the denouement. After all the impassioned verses and instrumental heft, the Kris Barras Band ends on an earnest and uplifting note. Strong guitar passages and emotive backing vocals punctuate the underlying message that, “pain is temporary, pride is forever.” Light It Up is an album to be proud of.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– What You Get
– Broken Teeth
– Pride Is Forever
The Big Hit
– Broken Teeth
Review by Willie Witten