Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Even a number of months since Danny Barnes' taping of this particular session, none of us are all that certain we know what to make of what he did in the live room at Big Orange in March, nor where his music belongs in any kind of discussion set on classification. It is odd and quirky, the efforts of a guy who has admittedly had a bit of a fetish for sounds for the last 36 years of his life. The former Bad Livers founder is a man who sounds like a mad scientist channeling Les Claypool, George Jones, Beck and the Sun City Girls to make an art project that's like throwing a bunch of glue onto a piece of construction paper and then just sticking parts and pieces to it - glitter, edges of doilies, ribbons, feathers, dye, cotton balls - to make something that has no explanation. Even without an explanation in a tactile or constructive sense, don't be fooled into thinking that there's no structure to a Danny Barnes song, for there's considerable thought put into all of his arrangements - and that's precisely we all still aren't exactly sure what he was doing when we met him in Austin of this year. It was some crazy playtime that stimulated the parts in Barnes' musical brain that created the songs in the first place - here experimenting with them by using some techno gadgets that instantly got his juices flowing. A tall gentleman who prefers to be at home in Port Hadlock, Washington, with his wife, his many books and his musical toys, Barnes writes songs that cannot be played the same way twice. One of these reasons is because they just can't be - the impossibility of it - and the other is because it seems as if Barnes wouldn't allow it to happen as that would bring him little, if any stimulation. His drive, with his banjo, and with these songs that find new paces and tangents every time they're let out of their rooms, is to challenge them into becoming something less recognizable than they were before. It's not a scrambling, just a change in identity for them, an alteration to their features and the ways that they're presented, giving them latitude to be mysterious, while still sounding like the weirdest bluegrass-hip-hop-beat music that you're likely ever to hear.