Upon first listen, the Bad Livers' debut recording sounds like a good, old-timey bluegrass album, but by the time the tuba enters on the third track, you begin to realize that this is not your average bluegrass combo. Danny Barnes has got the chops on both guitar and banjo, and sings in a voice no more nasal than many of the genre's stalwarts. He can even write tunes that stand rather nicely next to traditional tunes and Reno & Smiley. Then there's "Shit Creek" and "The Adventures of Pee Pee the Sailor," a Butthole Surfers cover no less; and the mere presence of tuba and accordion almost assuring turned-up noses by the hardcore bluegrass crowd. But that's the beauty of the Bad Livers -- they love all sorts of music and aren't afraid to incorporate them in any way they see fit; a characteristic that would infuriate some fans later on in their career. On Delusions of Banjer, the sound remains mostly traditional, even when the subject matter may not be. Mark Rubin and Ralph White provide fine support, but the real focus is Danny Barnes. His songwriting ranges from "Shit Creek" to the beautiful bluegrass gospel of "Precious Time" and "How Dark My Shadow's Grown" to the murder ballad "Pretty Daughter"; and his guitar and banjo playing are both stellar. Delusions of Banjer is a great record that may not appeal directly to all bluegrass fans, but whose irreverent attitude and sense of humor might be just the ticket to attract other people curious about the genre, or those simply in search of an old-timey good time.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard