Barely Works / The Barley Works

The Best of the Barely Works

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Britain's Barely Works was, perhaps, one of the unlikeliest folk groups to come along, mixing up brass (including tuba) with fiddle, accordion, banjo, charango, vocals, and percussion. It shouldn't have worked, but somehow it did, at least until 1993. Along the way they made three albums, tracks from which appear on here, along with roaring live takes on the pieces, including Chris Thompson's "This Fire." Though sometimes complex for the sake of complexity, there's a joy in the way they rage through a track like "Byker Hill" or "Big River," and the mix of traditional and original material makes for a fascinating and often very loose mix of styles that they've blended together into a whole. All supremely adept musicians, they definitely enjoyed pushing the envelope until their demise in 1993. Think of them as new folk, maybe, or making music that really doesn't acknowledge genre. Unusual, maybe, but there's nothing wrong with that at all -- it's the way the folk tradition becomes renewed and refreshed -- and rarely are bands as refreshing as Barely Works were.

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