Madison-based saxophonist Tony Barba is a sonic chameleon, able to wrap catchy melodic themes around a variety of different genres. His ear for melodies is on full display on his newest outing for the Midwestern label Shifting Paradigm Records. In interplay with Chicagoan guitarist Matt Gold and the Madison-based rhythm section of John Christensen on bass and Devin Drobka on drums, Blood Moon sees Barba drawing from reggae as much as from pop and country, together interpreted with jazzy sensibilities by the band.
The mixture of the rhythmically comforting genres combined with memorable hooks gives the record its seductive allure. "Washed Up," "The Long Haul" or "Hide Alerts" tackle the Americana side of things by introducing trademark echoey tremolo guitar in combination with wistful harmonies that outline Midwestern landscapes. It is this specific region that gave the record its namebased on Barba's two month writing period in the Midwest which included the total lunar eclipse of 2019.
Things get spicier on the jumpier takes such as the title track (still guided by that tremolo guitar work) or the Caribbean rhythm-driven "Rounding-Up," which develops into a rocking climax of heavy guitar distortion feeding like-minded saxophone cries. As the album unfolds however, it becomes increasingly apparent that the project's strengths tend to take the shape of weaknesses too: some of the tunes' linear structures tend to stagnate after a cycle or two. But for the most part the plan works. Closer "Cut and Dry" brings back the reggae drive, this time in fusion with a drum and bass pulse and lively lines between sax and guitar. Short breaks added with an electronic sampling kit make this extroverted affair a complete success.
Blood Moon sounds fresh and unique. The blending of genres comes across as natural and demonstrates Barba's knack for composition as well as his focused saxophone-playing. His collaborators are able to give these songs what they need, making it an engaging set of mostly strong displays.
Blood Moon; Hide Alerts; Rounding Up; Wishlist; Washed Up; The Hypnotist; Drifters; Monster; The Long
Haul; Cut and Dry.
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