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Inconsistent production hinders Gavin Barry's 'In the Beginning'


Rochester musician’s Gavin Barry’s debut album “In the Beginning” is tricky to place stylistically. The compositions are rooted in the acoustic guitar, but it would be all too easy — and incorrect — to categorize this as “folk” and move along. Both lyrically and vocally, there’s an undeniable roots reggae influence — with politically charged themes that speak to the unification of oppressed people striving for freedom.

Barry is backed by his band, Rebel Banjo Circus, which is a fun, if inaccurate name. The banjo-less ensemble includes guitarist Benjamin Rybott, Alan “Pyntch” Roberts on bass and backing vocals, and drummer Greg Detwiler. There is an undeniable “live” energy to the 10 songs on “In the Beginning,” and the chemistry between the musicians is palpable.

Despite the emotional synchronicity, the actual musical elements are not always in sync. Roberts’s bass playing sounds slightly behind the beat, rather than on top of it. The use of upright bass as opposed to bass guitar seems to contribute to the cumbersome quality of the sound. Barry’s tunes, especially “Rising Tide,” “Everything,” and “Circles,” are fast-moving and feature densely packed lyrics, so equally nimble bass lines are necessary to keep pace.

Listeners might also be distracted from Barry’s engaging songwriting and conversational approach to vocal melody by the sonic imbalance between instruments. The acoustic guitar is dialed down too low, while the bass consistently overpowers the mix.

“In the Beginning” is an intriguing listen, and as a songwriter, Barry has something important to say. Unfortunately, the rough-hewn recording lacks polish. Barry and Rebel Banjo Circus play the release party at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 7 at Abilene Bar & Lounge. $5 cover. For more info, visit

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].