13 songs – 40 minutes
ODD is the ninth solo album of pianist, singer and songwriter, Roddy Barnes. The album title is both a play on words (the middle letters of Barnes’ first name) and a reflection of the broad spectrum of blues-based music contained within it. Barnes plays piano and sings, primarily supported by the multi-talented Jeff Covert on bass, drums, guitar and backing vocals.
Opening with the witty, upbeat “Enough Stuff”, which contains some glorious guitar contributions from guest, Bob Margolin, it is immediately clear that the focus of the album is on the songs themselves, rather than the songs serving as an excuse for the players to demonstrate their substantial technical chops. Indeed, Barnes modestly wrote different songs with different musicians in mind, to spotlight them rather than himself. The result is a great success – a delightful collection of well-constructed songs, all played with an engaging verve.
Gaye Adegbalola, Resa Gibbs and Gina Deluca all contribute guest vocals (Deluca’s sulty take on “Bones” is particularly striking). Jackie Merritt adds sweet harmonica to three tracks; Andra Faye adds mandolin to “Not Always Waltz”; and Ian Walters dispenses magnificent barrelhouse boogie woogie piano in the rollicking instrument duet “Dido Yarn Boogie”, a sort of “duelling pianos”. Most poignant of all, however, are the recordings featuring the late Ann Rabson, to whom the CD is dedicated. Barnes’ heart-felt tribute to Rabson in the liner notes underlines the respect and affection in which he holds Rabson, who plays guitar on “Not Always Waltz” and adds beautiful whistle and guitar on the instrumentals “Go Lucky” (which also has some lovely uncredited violin playing) and “Easy Breezy”.
Barnes demonstrates a sly wit on the rocking “Keep Your Feet On The Road”, with its knowing nod to Stealer Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You” on the vocal fadeout. Indeed, it is quickly clear that anarchic humour is a fundamental element of ODD. Accompanied solely by his piano, the ostensibly happy “Don’t Worry” contains the mordant chorus: “Don’t worry. It’ll be OK. We’re all going to up and die some day” while “Dreaming (A Stalker’s Love Song)” is a riot of informed bad taste, calling to mind the masterful Tom Lehrer. Likewise, the reverb-drenched 60s-influenced “Aliens” conveys a hilarious message to visitors from outer space: “Aliens, can you hear my humble cry? I hope this can reach you somewhere up in the sky. You’ve been coming here for centuries and we still don’t know just what you need. You abduct us and probe us and steal away into the night. Then you don’t even bother to call us or to write. Just a little candy or some flowers. A touch of romance. Otherwise it feels like a dirty one-night stand.”
With 13 songs packed into 40 minutes, no track outstays its welcome. Only the torch ballad, “The Fall” lasts longer than four minutes. The result is a very enjoyable album that will make you want to immediately hit “play” again and then to investigate Barnes’ other releases. Barnes himself accurately summarises the album in his liner notes when he writes: “The CD is named ODD, as it is. Odd but wonderful.” That it is.