EP Review : Boy Named Banjo – Circles

Review by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography

Released – 27/08/21

Mercury Nashville’s newest band, Boy Named Banjo, released their new EP, Circles, on August 27th having supported Brothers Osborne, and then immediately played a sold-out show at the Ryman with The Cadillac Three.  American Songwriter describes the project as, “Marrying a myriad of influences within the country / bluegrass / folk realm, Nashville-based quintet Boy Named Banjo sets an energetic pace for their forthcoming major-label debut

“We were still too young to step foot inside a bar when we first started to play,” front man Barton Davies recalls “so we’d set up shop on the sidewalk outside of Robert’s Western World in downtown Nashville and play our own songs for whomever would listen.”  According to Davies – about halfway through one of their sets, a man came stumbling out of Robert’s, got in Barton’s face and yelled “Play that thing, Banjo Boy! C’mon, Banjo!”  Guitarist William Reames texted Davies later that night – “Boy Named Banjo!”

The band has been around for some time, recording The Tanglewood Sessions debut album in 2013 as a three-piece with Willard Logan, then hooking up with drummer Sam McCullough and recording their sophomore album, Long Story Short coming out in 2014.  The band earned a spot in their first major music festival, performing at Bonnaroo in 2015.  Shortly after releasing their Lost on Main EP in 2016, Boy Named Banjo found its missing piece, bass guitarist Ford Garrard.  The group hit the road and haven’t stopped touring since.  

The EP kicks off with the indie-roots rock of Only You Know, with some Kings of Leon feel in the way the track motors along, and the layers of harmony in the guitars and the backing vocals, of the course the banjo taking the main melody line throughout.  This is a really polished radio-friendly sound, that spans a number of genres.  Feel For You has a much sparser sound, with a bit of a deep-south country rock and bluegrass vibe, mixed in with a folksy feel, and the almost celtic drumming that provides a hypnotic beat.

There is commercial country feel to Too Close, which provides some more beautiful harmonies in the dual-lead vocal lines, and a mellow guitar solo behind the last couple of choruses which is divine.  The title track of the EP, Circles, has a driving bass and drum beat, while the banjo sits behind the lead guitar which takes the lead melody.  Just as I want to mention KoL again, the chorus takes us down a different and much more complex path which is so much more exciting.  The band then breaks up the next verse to provide some contrasting dynamics, and keep doing it in different parts of the track, without ever losing the underlying intensity from the backing section.

As you start to think you have worked the band out, they take a sharp turn into left-field with the glorious country / bluegrass of Where The Night Goes, which has the banjo as the hero, and shows off the impressive vocal talents of Barton Davies, and also the 5-part harmonies that the band seems to deliver with ease.  Keep Lying To Me gives us more of the relentless beats from McCullough and Garrard who appear to have formed one of those classic bass / drum partnerships that the best bands have. There is a percussive guitar riff under the opening verse, while the lead guitar meanders around the riff and melody, before the chorus powers in with an off-beat accent, and then it all kicks off.  There is so much going on here, that as you listen at different times you hear completely new elements to the track.

The EP comes to a close with a poetic ballad in Go Out Dancing, which shows what may be the true roots of the band, with the guitar harmonics around the rippling banjo which provides both melody and beat in the texture.  

Boy Named Banjo has crafted a sound that incorporates an energetic blend of country, bluegrass, alt-rock, and folk-pop telling their stories through an honest, emotional, roots-driven perspective.

The Band:
Barton Davies – vocals, banjo
William Reames – vocals, guitar, harmonica
Willard Logan- vocals, mandolin acoustic/electric guitar
Sam McCullough – vocals, drums
Ford Garrard – vocals, bass

Circles EP Track Listing:

1. Only You Know (Barton Davies, Jon Sherwood, William Reames) 

2. Feel For You (Barton Davies, William Reames, Michael Whitworth, Dan Fernandez)

3. Too Close (Barton Davies, William Reames, Tim Bruns, Jon Sherwood)

4. Circles (William Reames, Oscar Charles, Jon Sherwood)

5. Where The Night Goes (Barton Davies, William Reames, Benjamin Simonetti, Jon Sherwood) 

6. Keep Lying To Me (Barton Davies, William Reames, Benjamin Simonetti, Jon Sherwood)

7. Go Out Dancing (Barton Davies, William Reames, Oscar Charles, Jon Sherwood)

Useful Links:

Website :   https://www.boynamedbanjo.com/ 

Facebook :  https://www.facebook.com/Boynamedbanjo 

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/boynamedbanjo/