Ex-Tull ax­e­man still look­ing for ad­ven­ture.

Prog - - Intro - Rachel MaNN

Prog has its fair share of gui­tar he­roes. The likes of Steve Howe, Robert Fripp and Steve Hackett have all been rightly lauded. Martin Barre has ar­guably re­ceived fewer plau­dits. Con­nois­seurs, how­ever, have long known that any gui­tarist who could han­dle the bat­shit ar­range­ments of Ian An­der­son in Thick As A Brick mode de­serves some props. In some ways, a gui­tarist’s gui­tarist (his fans in­clude Mark Knopfler and Steve Vai), Barre’s solo work re­veals his con­sid­er­able gifts as a song­writer as much as his axe skills.

Roads Less Trav­elled, Barre’s sev­enth solo al­bum, both builds on and de­parts from 2015’s Back To Steel. The con­ti­nu­ity is found in Barre’s mas­tery of hard rock. It’s shown es­pe­cially on the Whites­nake-wor­thy (This is My) Driv­ing Song, as well as the groovy ti­tle track, where vo­cal­ist Dan Crisp sits back beau­ti­fully on the riffage. It’s fan­tas­ti­cally catchy fist-pump­ing rock. How­ever, where Back To Steel acted as a ret­ro­spec­tive over a 50-year ca­reer and in­cluded some cov­ers of old favourites, Roads Less Trav­elled shows the 70-some­thing Barre still look­ing for­ward.

Barre al­ways had the gift of plac­ing his vir­tu­os­ity at the ser­vice of the song. In ad­di­tion to Crisp, Roads Less Trav­elled fea­tures vo­cals from Becca Lans­ford and Alex

Hart. Whether serv­ing up power chords or ex­quis­ite folkin­spired pro­gres­sions, Barre wants the singer to be heard. Mind you, his licks on me­dieval folk in­stru­men­tal Trin­ity are breath­tak­ing. They com­bine both har­monic rich­ness and melodic skill – the lis­tener is trans­ported away to tales of lost cas­tles and gal­lant knights, and it all leaves you in no doubt of the in­cal­cu­la­ble con­tri­bu­tion Barre made to Tull’s sound.

Even on more straight­for­ward jazz blues grooves like

And The Band Plays On, Barre’s gui­tar takes a road less trav­elled – his solo­ing doesn’t seek to dom­i­nate but weaves care­fully in and out of a smart rhythm sec­tion and or­gan play­ing. He just wants this tale of ball­room danc­ing (that’s right!) to take cen­tre stage.

A se­vere critic might sug­gest that a track like Bad­core

Blues – with its Ry Cooder-es­que slides and its re­frains of

‘I’m in too deep’ – run a lit­tle too close to blues by num­bers, but that would be quib­bling. There is so much on this al­bum – from the en­er­getic fu­sion of rock and folk in opener Lone Wolf through to the beau­ti­ful You Are An An­gel – to in­spire and de­light fans, old and new.

Barre al­legedly claimed that he’d never had a gui­tar les­son in his life. Rather, he wanted to find his own style and vi­sion of play­ing. Roads Less Trav­elled makes the lis­tener glad he fol­lowed his dis­tinc­tive path.


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