Album Review: Bardela, 'Sky'
By: AMELIA DEVOID
As Published in Seven Days (11/22/17)
(Self-released, digital download)
In her bio, Bardela rhythm guitarist and vocalist Cooie DeFrancesco describes music as a "lifelong companion and source of comfort." Alongside her list of influences, which range from Jimi Hendrix to Procol Harum to Rosetta Tharpe, she also nods to the disenfranchised musicians of color who lived on the outside of the mainstream music industry — a refreshing acknowledgment.
Bardela's lead guitarist and songwriter, Arty LaVigne, and bassist Jeff Barrows also share a lifelong practice and appreciation of music from the '60s. The Vermont band is a musical throwback to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and '70s. Their debut EP, Sky, is a curated celebration of classic tone.
"Here in LA" kicks things off with a sunshiny, languid rhythm that suffuses Beach Boys tone with Jonathan Richman whimsy. The track is smoothly balanced, and the instrumentation is awash in lush reverb. The trio grooves together comfortably, as old friends should. Their music holds laid-back maturity: Bardela aren't trying to impress or redefine anything, but simply reminisce over an old collective dream.
Sky shifts into an eerie, bluesy Americana sound on "The Crow." The song has a dimly lit roadhouse swing. LaVigne's lead guitar is uncontrived and genuine — unlike some contemporary blues guitar riffs that sound more like a Gibson guitar demo video on YouTube. Layers of elegiac vocal harmonies intensify a sense of traveling a lonely desert highway tuned to AM radio.
"In the Country" is the EP's creative standout. A wide, ambient lead-guitar melody stretches out across a subdued rhythm section colored by a '90s Neil Young-style bass line. The instrumentation here almost reaches the War on Drugs' current interpretation of down-tempo Americana. If Bardela chooses to follow the sound of this track, rather than skip around from genre to genre, they could cultivate a style that appeals to the contemporary market's taste in rock nostalgia. However, an appealing aspect of Sky is the seeming lack of ambition toward mainstream success. Bardela play just for the joy of it.
The EP ends on "Country Comes to Town," another roadhouse-worthy tune that anyone craving a good old-fashioned feeling would enjoy drinking a pint to. More upbeat than the preceding songs, here Bardela demonstrate their function as a dance band and close on an energetic high note.
Stream Sky by Bardela at bardela.com.
News & Reviews
AS PUBLISHED IN: www.allaboutjazz.com
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Roots In The Green Mountains By DOUG COLLETTE July 29, 2017
Self Produced 2017
Redefining Americana on multiple fronts, "Here in LA" is an ideal opener for the Bardela EP.The vocal harmonies that are the band's stock in trade sound tremulous as ' the day begins,' and the accompanying mesh of guitars with Jeff Barrows' bass effectively sets up the full-band complement that appears on "The Crow." Here the ominous air of the initial number, somewhat veiled by group singing, turns immediately palpable when Mark Christensen's lead guitar conveys real danger. It's a tribute to the versatility of Bardela (their moniker a metaphor of their unity as a composite from each of the members' surnames names) that such a stripped-down alignment moves with such confidence from such a foreboding atmosphere to the soothing likes of "In The Country;" the contrast between Artie LaVigne's lead singing and Cooie DeFrancesco's voice, in gentle counterpoint, conjures the sensation of 'livin' the dream,' and, in doing so, restores truth to the cliche. All of which makes "Country Comes to Town" the logical conclusion of this set of songs titled Sky: written, arranged and produced by rhythm guitarist/vocalist LaVigne at engineer Bennett Shapiro's Mad Tech Sound studio, the gentle boogie of Zack Lavigne's drums here emphasizes the staunch independence at the heart of this unassuming work. These four cuts, available as a free download from bardela.com, could easily form the foundation of a full-length album with the addition of more rockers and perhaps even an a capella track to further broaden what's already a deceptively extensive vocal and instrumental range.
Tracks: Here in LA; The Crow; In The Country; Country Comes to Town.
Personnel: Cooie DeFrancesco: vocals, guitars, chorus carmony vocal arrangement (Track two); Arty LaVigne: lead guitar, vocals; Mark Christensen: lead guitar; Jeff Barrows: Bass; Zack LaVigne: drums