Barbara Cue's second album, Rhythm Oil, is a record that unfortunately suffers from what is commonly known as "side project syndrome." The key members of Barbara Cue divide their time between this group and others which take up the bulk of their time and attention (as well as providing the bulk of their income) -- drummer Todd Nance usually keeps time with jam-meisters Widespread Panic, guitarist William Tonks plays with Six String Drag, and John Neff also picks pedal steel with the Star Room Boys. Consequently, Barbara Cue is a band comprised of great players who, however, don't have a whole lot in the way of top-shelf material to bring to the table; most side projects find the participants bringing in their B-list tunes while they save their gems for their "real" bands, and Rhythm Oil's Achilles' Heel is a decided lack of memorable songs. Barbara Cue play up a storm on much of this album (especially the loud and clanky "Do You Read Me," the menacing "Talking to Myself," and the Stones-influenced "Cloven Hoof"), but most of these cuts sound more like glorified riffs than songs, and consequently they get old pretty fast (the band doesn't even seem to use them as starting blocks for memorable jams most of the time, which one might expect from an act featuring a member of Widespread Panic). With the right music, this band's smart and slightly fractured roots rock could be a force to be reckoned with, but Rhythm Oil suggests this band needs to draft a man who has a way with tunes before they go into the studio for album number three.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming