Reviews: FoUnd and Lost

The Orange County Register
Orange Pop: Fallen Stars are on the rise
By Robert Kinsler
November 24, 2006

Somewhere between the wide-open stretches of Gram Parson's beloved Mojave Desert and the decaying cityscapes frequented by Bruce Springsteen shine the Fallen Stars.

Playing music that is at once as inviting as the Pretenders and as arresting as My Morning Jacket, the Fallen Stars impressed mightily in an hour-long set at the Marlin Bar in Huntington Beach last weekend. Anyone who missed the band's set need not worry. The hard-working Huntington Beach quartet will perform at the Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and be back at the Marlin Bar on Dec. 15.

"We're kings of the dive bar," said singer-guitarist Bobbo Byrnes, whose first name is pronounced Bob-O. The Fallen Stars also feature his wife, Tracy Byrnes (bass, vocals); John Vowell (drums); and Gregg Braught (guitar).

While the Fallen Stars are apt to perform at just about any neighborhood tavern, club or pub, the group's music is not to be dismissed. In fact, Bobbo and Byrnes write deeply affecting material and it is delivered with an authenticity that is exhilarating. Even on disc, the Fallen Stars' blend of roots rock, country, folk and pop is delivered with the wallop of the Clash, notably on the outfit's most recent CD, 2004's astounding "Found & Lost."

Bobbo Byrnes started the band with Tracy Byrnes in 1997. The group then was based in Billerica, Mass.

"We had a rough couple of years. Her (Tracy's) brother Jesse died and our lead guitarist (Jeff Turner, who was best man at the Byrnes' wedding) died," said Bobbo, noting the group's second CD, 2000's "Stan's Garage," features songs focusing on those two lost lives.

The couple decided to leave their home in New England and get as far away as they could without leaving dry land. In 2000, they set down new roots in Huntington Beach.

Bobbo and Tracy Byrnes were welcomed into the Orange County music scene and have worked with a number of talented players. But the current lineup is a strong one and it shows in the Fallen Stars' performances.

"We find ourselves between two genres. In country (venues), we sound rock. In rock crowds, we sound country," Bobbo Byrnes noted. "We're making our own map."

Tracy Byrnes' strengths as a bassist and singer harmonize perfectly in the group.

"We met in 1992, married in '97 and he started to teach me bass in '97. I previously had tried guitar and dropped it. I love bass – plus he needed a bass player," she explained. As for Vowell and Braught, each made decidedly different entrances. "I invited Greg to practice and he kept coming back," Bobbo said of Braught.

Vowell had played on the same bill with the Fallen Stars while in other bands and when onetime drummer Chuck Rogers moved back to Georgia, Vowell called Bobbo Byrnes early one morning and told him he was going to be playing drums for the Fallen Stars. "Bobbo was in a bind. He had shows booked. It wasn't a hard decision for me to make."

The good news for area fans is that the Fallen Stars' first two discs, 1999's "My Affect is Appropriate" and the aforementioned 2000 release "Stan's Garage," will be reissued on the group's own Kiss My Squirrel label. And local audiences can also look forward to the band completing a new collection of material with the current lineup.

"The only thing we have is the realness of what we do," Bobbo said.

The Lowell Sun
California Dreamers are Back to Play on Home Turf

By Kathleen Deely
September 9, 2004

When Bobbo Brynes (sic) and his wife, Tracy, traded Billerica for Los Angeles four years ago, they didn't go to surf. They went to feel normal.

"We needed to get the hell out of Dodge," said Bobbo, 32, frontman for the rock group The Fallen Stars.

"We needed a change of scenery. I once heard someone say 'rock bands don't move to L.A. to be stars; they do it to feel normal,' and I think that's true," he said on the phone from his home in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Together for five years, the versatile group - which features Billerica Memorial High School grads Bobbo, class of '89, and Tracy, class of '92, on lead vocals - found camaraderie on the West Coast they couldn't on the East.

"We've fallen into a group of musicians. There's a great scene going on here," said Bobbo.

A hotbed of rock 'n' roll, L.A. is ground zero for musicians. "There are almost as many bands as there are stores," said Bobbo.

Living in California has helped the band, which includes Chuck Rogers on drums and J. Williams on piano, define its sound. Exposure to seminal groups like Neil Young's Crazy Horse, which Bobbo has toured with, has helped Californicate their sound.

"With so many great musicians out here, every time I go out and see a band it makes me want to come home and write more," he said. His current fixation is The Jukebox Junkies.

By turns ambient and straight-ahead rock, The Fallen Stars will bend all genres when they take the stage at Evos Arts in Lowell tonight.

"We have more extremes in our songs. There are some that rock hard, some that are acoustic, some that cover the whole range in between," said Bobbo.

Their new CD, Found & Lost, is filled with tales that sound like antecedents from Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty. "Sioux City," about playing blackjack on a riverboat has that ragtag "Born to Run" feel.

The last time The Fallen Stars played a show in Lowell, it was at Smithwick's, which is now Evos. "It's a homecoming of sorts," said Bobbo. "We are really, really excited."

It all sounds hunky-dory, but there are times when surf city makes him lonesome for home.

"Oh, yeah. Billerica is a place not like anywhere else. I grew up by the lake. Tracy grew up on the side of Pinehurst. I miss the old band subs and the ckicken cutlet subs at Augusta Market." He also misses Fluffernutters, which apparently you can't buy or make in L.A.

The Fallen Stars play Evos, 98 Middle St., Lowell, tonight at 10:30. Donations will be accepted at the door. Thye also play T.T. the Bears in Cambridge on Monday and live on WUML, the UMass Lowell station, Monday.

West Coast Performer
By Amanda Wells

June 2004

On Found and Lost, southern California roots rockers the Fallen Stars make it very clear they write songs about folk like us. Folks in love. Folks in pain. They take a lot of stock in honest, heartfelt storytelling. Overall, their admiration for the narrative form, rife with omnipresent themes of travel and escape works well. They weave thirteen cohesive vignettes of love gained and ever so ruefully lost, encased within the aptly titled "Found" and "Lost". The sound cleverly mirrors the story being told, commencing powerful ("Break The Skin"), ending disillusioned and regretful ("San Diego"). Guitars, harmonica, accordion, percussion, lap steel and piano are just a few of the tools employed to evoke the sad tale. "Found" and "Lost" permeate with atmospheric, whispering vocals and wonderfully layered, meandering, jangly guitar.

Given that 'found' and 'lost' is the album's namesake, prelude and eventuality, it's expected the interior songs would reflect even a fraction of this dreaminess. Just the opposite is true, which is fairly disappointing because these two songs are so effective in capturing what the Fallen Stars are indeed capable of. Bobbo Byrnes' infuses intense emotion into his gruff vocals, but they can be slightly off-key ("Coming Home" and "April Fool"). However, when coupled with bassist (and wife) Tracy Byrnes' soothing harmonies, this roughness is a strength coursing through much of the album. Lyrically, the album is riddled with too many clichés. With writing such as "Please remember me, please / remember me fondly / It's a lot to ask but maybe someday / You'll look back at the times we had / And see a man who just lost his way" ("San Diego"), it overdoses on sentimentality. Perhaps this is the by-product of penning songs that are indirectly personal. Hopefully, further development for the Fallen Stars will retain what has worked: an honest narrative and the spacey, rootsy melodies and beautifully droning, vocal echo we just barely caught a glimpse of.

Jam Magazine
By William A. Huffman ~ 10 out of 11

April 2004

Holy Crap! This is freakin' good. Bobbo Byrnes, locally known for The Gypsy Mechanics before he and his wife Tracy moved to Cali, has now moved musically as well.

With the opening short "Found," the Fallen Stars debut CD begins a trek through many states- United and emotional - which all revolve around the finding and losing of many things; many of which may be determined only by the listener.

The entire album is crisp. It pops from the earphones/speakers quickly and easily. Whether it's an all-out straight-forward rocker like "We Are Only Young" or a softer ballad like "Ellie," each instrument is perfectly placed in production as well as perfectly played.

"In Reach" has a wonderful piano/guitar harmony while Bobbo laments of the innocence of going to the beach of younger days. And how the strip was "lit up like a Christmas tree on the fourth of July." "Sioux City," one of many that refer to a specific geographic location, has a subtle hook, plenty of guitar plushness, and Tracy's bass and harmonies in full swing. This tune,and some of the others, remind me of latter Lemonheads when Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield began performing together.

I think I prefer the songs that Bobbo leads vocally, but that's not to say Tracy isn't good. She is wonderful, but the texture Bobbo brings has a little more resonance and when Tracy harmonizes with him, it's magical.

Metronome Magazine
By Doug Sloan
March 2004

…Featuring thirteen songs that highlight both Bobbo's and Tracy's vocal work, the album deals up a potpourri of pop, rock and jangling acoustic offerings. Combining elements of The Rolling Stones and Counting Crows, The Fallen Stars inject their trump card of Tracy Byrnes' vocals into the mix making for a completely original project. Coupled to tight performances by the band and soaring original arrangements.

Ron's Alt.Country
February 2004

VERY loosely translated from the Dutch website ~ 3 stars out of 4
OK to be honest with you I have a weakness for falling stars. The stories on Elvis in his after glory days, the going down of soccer player George Best, and poet Herman Brood, are stories for me. A group with the name The Fallen Stars is first in line for me....

Lost and Found is the name of the cd from this couple from southern California, Bobbo (most of the vocals, guitar, harmonica and accordion) and Tracy Byrnes (vocals and bass guitar). Be careful the title is Found and Lost, not Lost and Found, which would be more appropriate, except this cd is thematic and tells the story of finding love and the going down of it. The theme is not concerning their own lives, but more on people they know.

Musically we must place The Fallen Stars in the corner with a band known as The Wild Colonials, in the period just before 2000 in the LA scene. Just as with the Colonials, the vocals of the Fallen Stars are blended between both Bobbo and Tracy, though it should be told that Tracy's voice can't touch the vocals of Angela McClusky of the Colonials. Bobbo's warm voice does work fine in the up-tempo rock songs, which can be found in the beginning of the cd, as well as on the ballads at the end of the cd. The cd is in good balance, powerful in the beginning and fading away at the end. Which is perfect for the story of this cd, lost love....