Trey Anastasio's Bar 17 is a return, while ever looking forward, to the adventurous pop sounds on his self-titled solo album issued in 2002 and Shine from 2005. This is an ambitious, wide-ranging recording, with over 40 session players (granted 14 of them are string players, but so what?) among them, members of Phish, John Medeski, Cyro Baptista, and Briggan Krauss. In addition, this is the kickoff effort from Anastasio's Rubber Jungle Records. Bar 17 was produced by Anastasio and Bryce Goggin and the artist's own Barn studio in Vermont and in New York City. The music on these 13 tracks ranges from balls-out rockers such as the album's first single "Dragonfly," and the aptly titled "Mud City." There are the funky, ambitious but accessibly knotty pieces such as the album's opener, "Host Across the Potomac," and gorgeously textured pop songs, such as "Shadow," and "Let Me Lie." There are shimmering acoustic pieces like "Empty House" and stretched-out rock tunes that allow for real improvisation in the title track and "Goodbye Head." There are also a few unclassifiable, numbers with lush strings, lots of space, and paces that move form slow to slower. The closer is a sprawling jazz-rock piece with horns and pumping pianos that becomes a rock & roll jam. The point is, this is one unfettered date. That said, however, it is utterly focused and there isn't anything extra here despite the fact that the album is over 70-minutes long. Apparently, there is a bunch of stuff left over from the session, as well: those who pre-ordered the set from Anastasio's website get those leftovers on a bonus CD as a thank you. Anastasio's work outside of Phish while they were together, and especially since the group disbanded, is utterly fresh, exciting, and full of surprises. While his records undeniably have a "sound" that belongs to him, they are so wide reaching yet utterly accessible that it may be difficult not to find something in here that's appealing. Another winner.
Bar 17 Review
by Thom Jurek