As founding member of Austin's notorious Bad Livers, banjoist/guitarist and singer/songwriter Danny Barnes staked his claim as a traditionalist who didn't mind breaking the rules by irreverently mixing punk, rock, rockabilly, and even touches of techno into the bluegrass formula. After the band's breakup in 1999, Barnes moved to Seattle and aligned himself with a fresh bunch of musicians for his first official solo project. While not quite a return to his roots since he really never abandoned them, Things I Done Wrong is a predominantly percussion-free set of banjo-based original tunes, spearheaded by Barnes' nasal Levon Helm-styled voice and offbeat lyrical sensibility. Assisted by Fiona Apple's bassist Keith Lowe and Goose Creek Symphony violinist Jon Parry, the trio runs through a diverse dozen songs -- running the gamut from the "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" rave-up of "Devil on the Mountain" to a snazzy yet reverent cover of T. Rex' "Broken Hearted Blues" -- with jaunty authority. The initial reaction that this is a fairly typical bluegrass/folk album becomes altered by repeated listenings that reveal unusual lyrics ("I'm coming over if you get my meaning") and instrumentation. An album that should appeal to bluegrass traditionalists who will warm to the Jimmy Martin cover of "There's Better Times A-Coming," as well as those looking for a slightly skewed, yet decidedly rootsy approach to the genre, Barnes has crafted a low-key, yet not minimalist work. Production by New York City jazzman Wayne Horvitz and a full string section on two tracks add depth as well as an eclectic feel to a promising debut by one of bluegrass music's least conventional artists.
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz