"Inspired by a poem called “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams, Americana auteur Bobbo Byrnes not only had a tattoo embossed on his left arm but opted to use its message to fuel his creativity. The point of the poem was, in essence, a variation of the Nike slogan “Just do it.” It initially appears to be incomplete -- “So much depends on...,” but in essence, Williams was encouraging his readers to just get on with their art without any preconceived notions, and let others accept or reject it for what it is later on.
That attitude is evident throughout The Red Wheelbarrow, a mostly upbeat set of songs that veer in and out of the country crossover mode that Byrnes’ has made his stock in trade since early on. The most obvious example of his ability to paint outside the lines occurs within his effusive take on Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain,” featuring none other than Roxy’s erstwhile guitarist Phil Manzanera reprising the electrifying embellishment that graced the original. Indeed, Byrnes enlists an array of distinguished guests with similar pedigrees here -- Wilco’s Ken Coomer, the Wallflowers’ Rami Jaffee and wife Tracy Byrnes, among the many -- and the rugged arrangements and uptempo embellishment is evident in such songs as “Look for It,” “Part-Time Cowboy,” “Lovers,” and “Looking at the World Thru a Windshield,” among the many. Likewise, a heartfelt take on John Prine’s weary and reflective “Mexican Home” brings things back to earth, an apt reflection of Byrnes’ appreciation for heartland happenstance. The song that follows, Byrnes’ own “Mrs. What’s His Name” sums up those sentiments succinctly.
Given his enthusiasm and determination to do what Williams suggested in the poem of the same name, The Red Wheelbarrow offers another obvious example of Bobbo Byrnes’ astute ability to share optimism and possibility through songs that rock with both desire and determination. His knowing attitude boasts infectious energy that surges from start to finish. Consider The Red Wheelbarrow an essential acquisition, and every one of Byrnes’ earlier efforts to be of similar standing as well. Whether the wider world recognizes it or not, he ought to be considered an essential Americana master." ~ The Daily Ripple
Bobbo Byrnes is a musician who apparently prefers to release his new records to the public in summer time. Two years ago he already did that with the excellent album “Motel Americana” and last year with the equally beautiful “Two Sides To This Town”. And yes, also in the occasionally scorching summer of 2019, “The Red Wheelbarrow” releases a new album by this Californian singer of alt.country and Americana songs.
As a multi-instrumentalist he plays the 6- and 12-string guitar, the baritone guitar, pedal steel and piano, while his wife Tracy Byrnes handles the bass guitar and provides harmony vocals. In addition, a whole arsenal of local instrumentalists contributed to the new record, who excel on drums, guitars, piano and Hammond organ, among others. The more famous names among those guest musicians are those of pianist Willie Walker, pedal steel guitarist Al Carey and British guitarist Phil Manzanera. The latter is best known for his membership as lead guitarist with the legendary formation "Roxy Music". His
contribution here is also limited to playing lead guitar on Bobby Byrnes' cover version of the "Roxy Music" song "Virginia Plain".
By the way, there are three other covers on this album, starting with a very nice version of the country rock song “Looking At The World Thru A Windshield”, a song that was first sung in 1968 by Del Reeves and subsequently covered by including 'Commander Cody' (1972) and 'Son Volt' (1992). Country ballad “Mexican Home” by John Prine from his 1973 album “Sweet Revenge” also received a great tribute from Bobby Byrnes. The latest cover on “The Red Wheelbarrow” is the lesser known song “Lovers” from the American alto. pop formation "Five Easy Pieces" from Los Angeles, a song from their group debut album from 1998.
With that we all named the cover songs, but we can't review this new album by Bobbo Byrnes without also talking about his own compositions. Nice rock'n'roll songs like opening track “Look For It”, “Double Down”, “Sally Starr” and “January” or country rock songs like “Part Time Cowboy” and “Mrs. What's His Name (see video) with delightful pedal steelwork have all the qualities to grow into traditionals in their genre.
In addition to his solo work, Bobbo Byrnes is also active as a member of two other bands: "The Fallen Stars" and "Riddle & The Stars". But it is mainly his excellent solo work with which he can count on international interest and that will only increase after the release of this new album “The Red Wheelbarrow”. We hope that he will soon make the crossing to Europe to please the many fans of this popular music genre.
“Motel Americana” from 2017 and “Two Sides To This Town” from 2018 were the two previous solo records from the Californian singer-songwriter Bobbo Byrnes. On his third album 'The Red Wheelbarrow' he is bringing four carefully selected cover songs and six new self-penned compositions, all tracks are contributing excellent rock'n'roll- and countryrock-songs to what might be called his very best record up to now. More to come, for sure! " ~www.rootstime.be
"This is an album of roots rock fronted by Byrnes’ guitars and robust vocals. Recorded in Nashville and California among other locations, it set out not to be overproduced or over thought. As a result, it has a lively feel that is energising and rough and ready. Byrnes is joined on the album by some 18 other contributors, some of whom may be known to the readers of album credits such as drummer Ken Coomer and keyboard plater Rami Jaffee. Another familiar name, if not in roots music circles, is that of Paul Manzanera, who adds his guitar to the roots take on Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain. One of a number of covers that feature, including their version of the truckin’ song Looking At The World Thru A Windshield. Mexican Home is from the pen of John Prine, the other outside song being Lovers. From then on Byrnes is the writer or co-writer of the other six songs.
Byrnes describes this sound as a joyous noise and that pretty much sums up its sense of having a good time on these largely up-tempo workouts that are full of moments that raise a smile and keep a foot tapping. It sounds like they would be a great band to catch live but here, from the studio, they have done much to capture that feeling. Part Time Cowboy is pretty much self-explanatory of his musical life. The previously mentioned Looking At The World Thru A Windshield is one of the more countryesque outings here with some twanging guitar solos. Byrnes is solid and satisfying throughout the recording on guitar, baritone, piano and pedal steel and well as on his bar room ready vocals.
The John Prine song Mexican Home is a male/female vocal ballad with steel and harmonica and therefore standout because of the pace and subtlety. Bu way of contrast Lover, a cover song, is a fast paced tale of going for the good times in the city. Mrs. What’s His Name is about trying to change a lifestyle but not really being able to, even whilst declaring love for a partner who has a different outlook.
The album closes pretty much as it opened with January but one that concerns itself with the problems that a relationship which isn’t reciprocated can have. Byrnes however manages to deliver as an album that overall has a sense of positivity and uplift that offers up hope and not a little humanity in its raucousness and righteousness sound." ~Lonesome Highway
Bobbo Byrnes makes Americana that most resembles nice guitar rock. He himself plays various guitars, pedal steel and piano and sings, his wife Tracy plays bass and sings second voice, and he has gathered a more than excellent band around him, and on The Red Wheelbarrow also play a number of very good and sometimes unexpected guests.
How about guitarist Phil Manzanera, the guitarist of the legendary band Roxy Music, who comes here to play along when Byrnes plays a cover of Virginia Plain , from Roxy Music. And it is not only because of Manzanera that it has become a beautiful cover, because Byrnes plays even more covers on this album, and you can put them all next to the original. For example, through Mexican Home by John Prine, the hat is nicely taken off for this unforgettable colleague.
But Byrnes' own songs may also be there - Byrnes could always write beautiful songs, but he seems to keep getting better. Nice album!
~ Moors Magazine (translated from the Dutch)