As spring emerges and we all begin to peak our heads out like some hibernating creature fearful of non-cloth-on-face confused people life is beginning to take shape once more. There’s no denying the last year has left a mark on all of us; some more than others.
For Kimberly and Samuel Barker the emergence of the (overly used) “new normal” we all face also reveals their sophomore record under the aptly named moniker Brightwire.
Following their 2018 release A Place to Call Home, the Barkers (marking their fourth anniversary with this release) add Michael Helfenstein (The Grizzly Band) to make a permanent trio and breathe life into Cracked, Flawed and Frayed.
Aided by Liz Sloan-McGovern (The Urban Pioneers) on violin/fiddle and John Stoll (Grifters & Shills) the “narrative of redemption and trying to get things right when given the chance” has come to light in eleven tracks that blend a rooted Texas sound with a forward-looking passion. Formed by the steely tones of dobro, harmonica, and steel guitar Brightwire stand strong atop a foundation of country and folk assembled in their own vein of Americana while welcoming new fans and old fans with the duality of Kimberly and Samuel Barker vocally. Varying pace and differing degrees of twang keep Brightwire’s Cracked, Flawed and Frayed fresh; if not building to a memorable ending with teeth.
Finding the album’s namesake in “Playing Favorites,” the collective style of Brightwire leads to the success of the whole and doesn’t depend on any one aspect to carry the weight. While narrative reaches reflection, such as “I think we’re all broken/but we’re still a ways from falling apart” (“Cracked Edges”), the comforting patchwork quilt of Brightwire’s approach to the their latest record doesn’t attempt to be anything other than exactly what we expect.
Brightwire’s sophomore album tonally takes a large step forward. Slide comes to the forefront to compliment and cultivate the roots planted in A Place to Call Home. Production quality levels the playing field with the various talents of the trio and contributors. Most noticeably it picks itself up, dusts off the two-and-a-half-year journey to get here and finds confidence in its appearance and intended purpose. Cracked, Flawed and Frayed is a pleasant sense of Americana yearning for warmer days, simple but meaningful companionship, and the open road, stirring the wanderlust in us all from the comfort of our speakers. Culminating in the sneering swagger of “Righteous Hand” and the Petty-esc (circa Echo) strut of “Goodbye Letter,” Cracked, Flawed and Frayed doesn’t fill a void; it projects light through a darkness and leaves us longing for more.
Brightwire stands before us, Cracked, Flawed and Frayed, hoping their art is something we might take. It is the humble opinion of this particular music fan you do just that. Roll down the windows, take the long way home, and slow things down a little with Houston, Texas-based Brightwire’s sophomore album.