“Leader Lincoln Barr is something of a traditionalist, favoring new wave-ish power pop melodies and savvy lyrics – reminiscent, but not imitative, of Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and their peers.” – Michael Toland,
The Big Takeover
“…destined, if musical justice prevails, to be covered by bar bands across the land – at first, second, third and last call.” – Fred Mills, Blurt Magazine
What is the Seattle sound? Truth is it changes. Frequently. Garage rock, grunge, hip-hop…Red Jacket Mine sounds like none of these. Led by songwriter Lincoln Barr, this quartet proudly calls Seattle home, but you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint the guys’ area code simply by spinning their superlative new album, Someone Else’s Cake, out February 19th on Fin Records.
At first blush, this batch of eleven originals seems more like a product of England in the aftermath of punk, when angry young men such as Graham Parker, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Messrs. Difford and Tilbrook of Squeeze spilled out of the pubs and elbowed their way into the UK charts. But pay closer attention. Someone Else’s Cake brims with melodies and lyrics that reveal new, deeper charms with repeated spins.
In 2012, the band cooked up a series of limited- edition, colored-vinyl 7-inch singles. “Listen Up (If the World Is Going to Hell)” and “Bellar & Bawl” distilled Barr’s myriad influences into succinct gems designed to sit alongside any of the 45s he might stock in his own jukebox. As the singles garnered favorable press and airplay on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle, Barr’s confidence increased.
The tracks from their singles are in this collection along with newer numbers. “Listen Up” was composed in a post-sinus surgery painkiller haze, when its author couldn’t even sing the melody. Other compositions slyly reflected the headlines; economics and politics filtered into the lyrics of “Skint City” and “Ron Nasty.” So did episodes from daily life. As the 2012 election dragged on, a ranting evangelist outside Barr’s office exacerbated his exhaustion with hearing everyone’s opinion, inspiring the classic country-tinged “Have You Got a Permit to Preach on This Corner?”
“I’m not writing message songs, but what’s going on in the larger world makes its way into the music, even if I’m just trying to write a catchy little soul song,” the songwriter admits.
Barr credits producer Johnny Sangster for helping Red Jacket Mine fully realize its new sound. “We couldn’t have gone into this renaissance without his partnership,” he says. While they shared points of intersection — Sangster’s production and engineering credits include the Posies’ album Success; Ken Stringfellow produced Red Jacket Mine’s Lovers Lookout, and lends his distinctive pipes to Someone Else’s Cake — the co-owner of Crackle & Pop! Studio also contributed a no-bullshit, punk rock attitude that favored brevity and eschewed getting too literal about referencing other musical eras and styles.
Barr grew up in Memphis, TN. Soul music is in his DNA. Check out the horn sounds that plump up “Better to Be Broken Than Blind” and the smoldering organ that anchors “Novelty’s Gone” if you doubt his River City bona fides. Today, Barr also plays with Seattle quintet STAG, and while his own compositions eschew the sugar rush immediacy of that power pop combo for a somewhat subtler approach, they share an affinity for indelible hooks.
Red Jacket Mine isn’t part of the latest wave from Seattle or anywhere else. Someone Else’s Cake is timeless in its sensibilities, snagging the ear with endearing melodies and lyrical barbs, then engaging the heart and mind with ideas that run deeper. If the end result sounds like an album that’s already withstood the test of time… well, that’s because it undoubtedly will.
Check out the video for “Listen Up” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9neR520ANo
Check out the video for “Bellar and Bawl” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9neR520ANo