Charlie Barath – Just Me and My Friend(s)
Self-Produced – 2021
17 tracks; 69 minutes
Pennsylvania-based harmonica player/singer/songwriter Charlie Barath is known for being able to play blues, country, Honky Tonk and Western Swing equally well, and his latest release, Just Me and My Friends is a clear demonstration of that skill. This album also features 19 other fine musicians, including Jimmy Adler and Chris Sutton on guitar, Mike Law on bass, John Burgh on Piano, and Pete Freeman on pedal steel & dobro, just to name a few. In fact, there are three other guitarists, two other bassists, three drummers, a “miscellaneous percussionist”, two violinists, a background singer and even a tuba player featured on this album.
The album, which contains all original songs (with the exception of one cover), begins with “The Forgotten Man,” a song about Chinese immigrants who built the transcontinental railroad. The field holler/work song style and background sounds realistically transport the listeners directly to the railroad worksite. It is followed by a very pretty, instrumental number, a traditional blues number and an old-time swing number entitled “I’m Losing My Mind Over You.” Some of the cleverest lyrics are in an old-school country number entitled “Little Turtle Nightlight.” In this song about romantic betrayal, Barath notes about her infidelity: “it was just a little one-night stand, with everyone I know…I’m laying here all by myself, as lonesome as can be, with my little turtle nightlight to keep me company.” One day he returns home to find “my little house was empty, everything was gone. She helped herself to everything that wasn’t nailed down.”
Clever lyrics are also found in his song about being a smoker, frustrated by extensive regulations, noting “you can’t smoke in the restaurant, you can’t smoke in the bar. And if you’ve got your kids you can’t smoke in your own damn car!” This track features an excellent guitar solo by Jimmy Adler. A final country-style song notes that his love “drives me to drink, but she won’t drive me home.”
Throughout all of the tracks, Barath’s tasteful and pure harmonica playing is featured, but on equal billing with the excellent musicianship of his friends. Some blues purists might be disappointed that not every song is bluesy, but there are no real flaws in this collection of songs. Anyone who is a fan of old-school roots and Americana music is bound to enjoy this album.