Wall Street Theater Presents:
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT, 06850
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
The world revolves at 140 characters per second – fast and easily digestible. Creativity is content, artists are brands, listening is consumption ... and the album is dead. If you accept that as the singular narrative of our times – and many seem to – stop reading now. The Barfly Sessions can't help you. If, however, you hold a kernel of doubt about that worldview – if you see the burgeoning of hours-long podcasts, binge-watching of complex dramas and a stronger-than-ever live music scene as indicators we are, in fact, desperate for true experience, depth and quality – well, dim the lights and play this music. Your life's about to get a lot better.
Defiant bordering on contemptuous of digital music's new rules, The Barfly Sessions are an implicit challenge: Want to consume this? Better be real careful you're not biting off more than you can chew. Before it's over, there will be serious questions about what consumed whom.
Those who know Heidi Newfield well will not be surprised to find her at the helm of this endeavor. Force-of-will embodied, she was voted most likely to not give a damn about anything but the music by a stunning collection of collaborators and co-writers. These include Al Anderson, Jim "Moose" Brown, Randy Houser, Jim Lauderdale, Delbert McClinton, Jon Randall, Mickey Rapheal, Rivers Rutherford, Leslie Satcher, Chris Stapleton and Kenny Vaughan. Read that list again. Seriously.
"When Trick Pony went to hell, someone suggested it was time to start a new chapter," she explains. "My response was, actually, let's throw the whole damn book away. Time for a new book." Consider the journey from young pup in a band van executing the major label playbook to stage-owning, harp-blowing, fully growed woman who has earned the responsibility to tell her narrative her way. As such, Newfield has completely ignored the generally accepted business plan. She didn't chase a record deal. She took her time. She recorded the closely held favorites rejected for prior albums because they didn't "fit." She didn't drip feed singles to streaming platforms. She self-financed the entire album. Hell, she made an album. Basically, Newfield has done everything wrong. But my God how gloriously wrong she is.
Step into the theatre of her mind as the Hammond B3 spools up over a chugging guitar on "I Won't Wait Around." Visualize the chaise lounge she rises from as her vocals become more insistent on "Three Things" – spelled with a capital R and a capital B. Feel the bead of sweat roll down the back of your neck while the whiskey revival choir of "Barfly" turns up the delta heat. Smell the sawdust floor and imagine the heel-toe steppers during "Wrong Side Of The Bottle." Watch the wisp of smoke rising from the glass ashtray on the polished bar top during "Temporary Fix."
Evocative as the sonic environments are on an album running the spectrum from traditional country through rockabilly and on to the blues, the songwriting is equally compelling. Newfield is credited on 12 of the 14. "Wait For It" and its gentle plea for patience, the poetry of grief on "When Heaven Falls," the drilled-into-bedrock country of "Whitley's Tombstone" and the autobiographical "Come Hell Or High Water Blues" reveal a breadth of craft rarely given purchase in today's highly constrained format-centric releases.
And then there's what can only be described as multiple examples of sheer badassery. The way the bald-faced menace of Newfield's "Love Blind" vocal is revealed to be aimed not at a straying lover, but at herself. The rockabilly friction of "I Could Fall For You" is propelled forward with help from Jim Lauderdale's vocals and Kenny Vaughan on guitar. There's sex on a platter, and one of Newfield's best vocals, on "Bring This House Down." "Whiskeytown" gets the "nasty" tag right at the outset and proceeds to earn it. And then we have "The Blues Is My Business" and Delbert McClinton trading harp licks with Newfield. If blues were in the habit of having gospel meetings, this would have a case for being the altar call. Finally, don't forget the barn's-on-fire tag on the opener "I Won't Wait Around."
Connecting all this diversity is the unifying and unmistakable harmonica playing and voice of Ms. Newfield. "Strong-ass, powerhouse women vocalists have always been my influences," she says. "The ability to belt out that emotion is exactly what I was aiming at." Newfield co-produced with Jim "Moose" Brown who, in addition to being a hit-making songwriter and producer, is known for playing keys as a member of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band. Together, they've carved a shockingly unlikely path through the digital utopia's conventions. "No one was telling me what to do," Newfield says. "No one put me in a box. No one was asking, what is the new stuff like? Um, it's like me. How does that hit you?" Pretty damn hard, actually. Despite the obvious...
The album is dead. Long live the album.