Alan Barnosky // Lonesome Road EP
Durham, NC (by way of Michigan) flatpicking guitarist and songwriter Alan Barnosky expertly crafts Americana songs that detail the life of a modern troubadour. His critically acclaimed debut Old Freight, which was noted as being “a fantastic album, full of clever guitar work, excellent vocal performances, and punchy arrangements“ put him on the map as an artist to watch. Since its release he’s been a festival and showcase regular, appearing at the 2018 IBMA Songwriter Showcase, receiving an honorable mention at the Telluride Troubadour Contest, showcasing at the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance conference, and opening for genre mainstays The Steel Wheels, Robbie Fulks, and Charley Crockett. In addition to his work as a solo artist, he has performed with bands at the IBMA World of Bluegrass, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, and Bristol Rhythm and Roots. 2020 sees Barnosky poised to build on this momentum with the release of his sophomore work, Lonesome Road, an EP that spotlights instrumental prowess while remaining true to the honest songwriting, authentic delivery, and no-nonsense production for which he has become recognized.
Lonesome Road begins with a driving guitar rhythm and shuffling fiddle, opening out into blistering layers of solo trade-offs between mandolin, fiddle, and guitar. On the title track, Barnosky delivers the perfect high country, old-timey vocal tone as he advises: “If you ever get trapped, if you get unlucky, get on down that lonesome road.”
“It’s generally bad advice to run away from your problems,” he laments with a smile. “But once in a while a shift truly is needed and it’s time to cut your losses.”
“Might Be a Call”– a standout track — was inspired in part by the music of genre luminary Bill Monroe, an influence made clear in both the song’s lyrics and minor-key, modal arrangement. “A lot of Bill Monroe’s songs have themes of loss,” Barnosky reminds us. “I was listening heavily to Monroe when I wrote ‘Might Be a Call’. It is about somebody who’s gone but you still feel their presence, and there’s a palpable uncertainty there.”
The more tongue-in-cheek “Beer Cans and Quarters” uses tropes from classic country songs to tell the story of a lost soul rambling for a new home after hard times. Barnosky recounts that a friend had once used the phrase “beer cans and quarters” and the song idea immediately struck. He penned the lyrics and melody shortly thereafter. While not autobiographical, anyone who has experienced disappointment or struggle can identify with its themes.
Barnosky was compelled to face and conquer some testing medical challenges in the early stages of the EP’s production. An enigmatic physical malady caused vocal damage and he wasn’t able to sing — or even speak comfortably — for several months. The band had no choice but to put the project on hold, and Barnosky had to face the possibility that his singing career might be over. Luckily, with time the condition receded and he was able to resume recording in late 2019.
This challenge strengthened the tone of resolve within Barnosky’s songs, and the EP is all the better for the experience. This acoustic masterclass was recorded at Arbor Ridge Studio in Chapel Hill with Jeff Crawford serving as lead engineer. Performers on the album include fiddler Jack Devereaux (formerly of Town Mountain), Robert Thornhill (mandolinist for Hank, Pattie & The Current), and bassist David Kinton.
A lifelong musician, Barnosky began playing bluegrass in his late teens as an upright bassist and only started singing and writing in his mid-twenties. “I moved from Michigan to North Carolina in 2012, and fit my most essential belongings into a 4-door car,” he recalls. “Unfortunately an upright bass would have taken up just about the entire car, so that got left behind – but I did squeeze in an old acoustic dreadnought guitar.” Then, living in a new place without a bass or bandmates to play music with, Barnosky starting flatpicking, writing, and working on his singing voice. A couple of the songs on Lonesome Road were first penned during that period.
An avid backpacker and cyclist in his spare time, Barnosky grants that a lot of the album was inspired by nature and his extensive time outdoors. A two-month solo bicycle tour quite literally served as the material for the title-track “Lonesome Road.” His new EP channels this experience–the life of a modern hobo making his way down the road to see what the next moment brings.
“A traditionalist at heart.” – Bluegrass Today
“An adventurous bluegrass tune accompanied by Barnosky’s hospitable, high-country vocals.” – Wide Open Country
“A riveting composition of Appalachia and heartfelt folk. Barnosky delivers a kindred mix of Ralph Stanley and David Rawlings, an earthy joy where
pioneering meets the modern.” – Glide Magazine
“With vintage influences and an ability to poke fun at struggles in life, Barnosky and his team have crafted a catchy tune that speaks to fans of classic country and folk music alike.” – Raised Rowdy
“With his deft skills flatpicking a guitar, Alan Barnosky is on the rise in the bluegrass community.” – Acoustic Asheville