Joe Barksdale – Butterflies, Rainbows, & Moonbeams
Hear My Music
Fans of the NFL may recognize the name, Joe Barksdale. He is an offensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers – in addition to being a singer and guitarist. Taking up the guitar five years ago in response to the death of a father figure, Barksdale has made significant progress, a fact borne out at numerous points on his debut recording.
An energetic rendition of the Freddie King instrumental, “The Stumble,” displays the confidence that Barksdale has in his fret work. The song also has a dazzling piano solo from Allan Phillips. Barksdale’s half-spoken vocal works well on a song from another of his influences, Jimi Hendrix, giving “The Wind Cries Mary” a run-through that doesn’t stray far from the original, yet feels right. The band tears through a frenzied version of “Dust My Broom”. The accelerated pace exposes some of Barksdale’s vocal shortcomings. Evan Marks handles the familiar slide guitar licks. “Can’t Put You Down” has a gentle strut as the singer is joined by Rebecca Jade on a soulful duet.
The other songs explore a range of styles only tangentially related to blues music. “Is It Blue” creates an ethereal mood with Natalya Phillips adding some delicate backing vocals while Barksdale finishes off the song with a graceful solo. Phillips, a protege of Prince, also helps out on a cover of “Electric Feel,” done by the rock band, MGMT, complete with a swirling arrangement of electronic tones. The original, “Thank You,” comes complete with Barksdale’s mellow vocal, bluesy guitar, and backing vocals by Jade. (Note – the two songs appear in reverse order on the track list on the back of the CD cover.) The title track creates a moody soundscape over three minutes.
Barksdale packs plenty funky punch into another instrumental, “How ‘Bout Now,” set up by a thick, popping bass line and some hard-edged guitar work. “Journey To Nowhere” is a blissful ballad built around a duet between the leader and Jade’s alluring voice. The two singers join forces again on the country-tinged “Dreams,” a sprightly number that falls short due to generic lyrics. “Brionna” is an instrumental tribute to Barksdale’s wife, complete with a flurry of short guitar statements. His guitar leads things off before turning it over to Jade and the Ken Turner Gospel Choir for a impassioned message on “Joy Bells” to finish off the disc.
There are three bass players utilized on the disc – Tim Lefebvre, Cecil McBee Jr., and Will McGregger. In addition to slide guitar, Evan Marks makes contributions on electric & acoustic guitar, banjo, and keyboards. Duncan Moore handle the drums and percussion, with Alan Phillips adding percussion as well as keyboards.
While he may only have a few years of experience on his instrument, Joe Barksdale demonstrates that he is a quick study. The scope of this disc, and the diversity of sounds in the arrangements, also make it clear that he has been a serious student of music for most of his life. It is an interesting assortment, with blues being a key element. When his football career comes to an end, it will be interesting to see how far he can go with music.