Review & Interview by Jennifer Harp
How did they come up with that term for the name of their newest work? Suggested by Hank Smith, banjo and vocals, this word does, indeed, describe what and where they are not only musically, but as friends as well.
"It was pretty much a 'come up with a list of names and pick the best one' type of banter. We had wanted a name to drop out of thin air into our laps that represented a common theme for this album; one that we all said "that's the one". It wasn't quite that easy, but Consonance came and what it means and represents for us was golden," Shawn Chase, mandolin and vocals, explained.
Jeff Garland, Shawn Chase, David Kleiss, Leo Kishore and Hank Smith had been playing as a quintet since Walter Hensley's departure in early 2006, who Leo Kishore replaced. David Kleiss left the band earlier this year, and, so far, they have remained a tightly knit tour-de-force of four, choosing not to replace their friend and guitarist.
"A guitar's sound is naturally beautiful to me, and most bands have them. A lot of folks grow up wanting to play the guitar, especially in the rock vein. However, when Dave left, I remember it being almost a given for me to not rehire for a few reasons," Shawn elaborated. "First, we have a chemistry that is so tightly knit, we didn't want to take a chance on having a hired gun come in that wouldn't get our jokes in the van! Also, there aren't many bands out there without a guitar player, so why not be different?"
"We had to learn how to play the older songs without that extra instrument," explained Leo Kishore, bass and vocals.
"At first, it was a conscious adjustment," says Shawn. "Dave's rhythm in particular added a pad of harmony that meshed well with everything else. Being a mandolin player, I had to learn not to "chop" on some things that I would normally just comp or chop on. I think not having a guitar has also opened up our sound a lot. Before, we had 4 stringed instruments going at all times, which can get a little hectic and can be too much to hear all at once collectively."
The new album itself is a true testament to the diverse 'musical salad' that is Barefoot Manner. Not having come out with anything since the 2003 release of "Aqua Leisure," the band has chosen to learn how to compensate for their losses and how to benefit from them wisely. Consisting of twelve tracks, there is a welcoming blend of a few old Barefoot Manner favorites along with some newly written songs thrown in. Choosing which Barefoot Manner "classics" to put on Consonance proved to be easier than one would think.
"It was pretty much a given once David left. We had an album recorded and ready to go, and then a major change. With major change comes major evolution, so we scrapped about half of an album or more and hit the attic and started creating music that would be reflective of what we would be doing on the road," answers Shawn. "It was huge for us, as all of us have different voices in terms of what we want to see musically. With all of us writing, you get to see and hear what each of us dreams about every night. We still play some of our older songs that David sang/wrote live, but we didn't want those to be represented on an album without him. All songs on the new album are written by one of the four of us".
"One More Round", as the most appropriate first track, brings the listener to immediate attention as the upbeat tempo takes over. "Heard the Sound' and "De La Luz" are attention getting as well. Though familiar, one can indeed hear a difference in the songs. I don't know exactly how the songs have changed, albeit minus the lead guitar, but they seem tighter, more mature...but still full of that fun vigor and vibe that Barefoot Manner evokes from their music.
One of the oldest songs on the album, "Mudhen" then begins and I am taken over with the subtle nuances of change within this Barefoot Manner favorite. Creation of Jeff Garland, vocals, drums and washboard, the reggae influence is even more apparent in this rendition.
"With the Engineer we used and the mastering house we went to, and a couple of other places,' Mudhen' is always the favorite. It was one of the things Jeff really nailed from the get go. He is our go to reggae guy," states Leo.
Re-introducing themselves, somewhat, on this newest project, these artists were intuitive in the order of the tracks. Like the warmth of a visit from an old friend, the most die-hard of fans will be pleasantly surprised at these 'old familiars' at the start, middle and end of the album. Interspersed with quite a few new, invigorating, upbeat, highly danceable tunes, such as "Coming to Grips" and "Two O'clock", the guys did well to showcase themselves with the old as well as the new.
Rather compelling, the new tracks on the album give one pause, as the growth and musical development of the four artists can be heard. The willingness to veer from what some would call their "given path", generally labeled as bluegrass, is obvious as well. There is a more 'funk' element here and most assuredly, a "not so hectic" sound which helps with the clarity of hearing each instrument.
After much growth, loss, hard work and change, Barefoot Manner, as a band, has come a long way. Any changes they have had to make during these past four years, they have used to their benefit, causing them to change and not to change as well. Consonance is indeed something to be proud of.
As Shawn says, "This is by far, the best thing that we have put together on disc. The variety is there, the songwriting is there, the roots are there, and the experimentation is there. I think that we are all pleased with this effort for many reasons. It has been a long while in the making, this album, and it is certainly my favorite to date."
Now that this is complete, I wondered, where will Barefoot Manner go from here?
Leo Kishore's reply: "Right now, we are stoked to be getting this thing out, so we're gonna enjoy this one a bit."
I don't blame them at all, as I sit back and continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor myself.
You can find out more about Barefoot Manner, their music, and tour schedule on their website, BarefootManner.com or at: