Album Reviews

Chris “Bad News” Barnes

Hokum Blues

Artist:     Chris "Bad News" Barnes

Album:     Hokum Blues

Label:     VizzTone

Release Date:     07.28.2017

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Chris “Bad News” Barnes is pretty much an elemental force, a guy of unexpected musical tastes, thoughts and interests. Often, and certainly self-billed, as the King of Hokum, Barnes is indeed the master of musical hocus-pocus with a sharp eye and ear for the absurd and weirdly witty world around him. His last release, 90 Proof Truth was a liberal tour de force of hokum blues-based delight, a bit of sparkling individuality and flair.

This time around, Barnes is once again sprinkling the release with hard-edged humor and a healthy dose of quality blues backing. Each track has a multi-hued blues strength and feel that make it work for blues fans while also remaining a bit skewed and quirky throughout. This is a guy with a positive self-assurance and confidence that shines out on each of the 14 tracks here. And, as ever, Barnes is joined by some truly top-dollar, all-star band-members from the likes of Van Morrison, Levon Helm and Billy Joel, for backing support.

If there’s a difficulty with this album, it most probably comes from a skeptical music-buying public that can’t really decide whether to take Barnes seriously as a musician or a sort of blues-based pioneer where frontiers and blues police are both pushed aside, shunned, and oft-times stunned by his general approach. As might be expected with this level of hokum, nothing is sacred, but Barnes manages to walk a musical tightrope to deliver an album that has bags of interest and merit.

—Iain Patience

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