Title: Nobody’s Fault But My Own
Artist: The Sensational Barnes Brothers
Label: Bible & Tire/Big Legal Mess
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019
Memphis natives Chris and Courtney Barnes grew up in a musical family steeped in gospel and soul music. Their mother Deborah was a former Raelette (Ray Charles’ background singers) and their father, Calvin “Duke” Barnes, was a local church musician. Together with their four children, the Barnes formed the musical group Joy, and more recently recorded and performed together as the Barnes Family. With this background the Barnes brothers were a perfect fit for producer Bruce Watson, of the newly launched Bible and Tire Recording Co., whose vision is to present contemporary artists performing in “the spirit and sound of the past.” After scouring the catalog of Designer Records, a Memphis-based gospel label now owned by parent company Big Legal Mess, they selected eleven songs from the early 1970s for the Sensational Barnes Brothers’ debut, Nobody’s Fault But My Own.
The album opens with “I’m Trying to Go Home,” a song drenched in gritty southern soul styled vocals from Chris and Courtney, with brother Calvin Barnes II laying down the organ tracks. Shifting to a rhythm and blues groove, “Why Am I Treated So Bad” pulls in the horn section while the brothers’ testifying vocals blend seamlessly. Their rendition of the Silver Trumpets’ “How I Made It Over” maintains the rocking rhythm section of the original, thanks to guitarist Will Sexton, bassist Mark Stuart, and drummer George Sluppick. One of the highlights of the album is the slow and simmering “Let It Be Good.” The first time Chris Barnes heard the original track, he exclaimed, “The guy on the recording sounded just like my daddy!” So they invited Calvin Sr. to sing lead, pitching his well-seasoned voice against his sons’ smoother harmonies. The song serves as a fine tribute to their father, who died just three months after the recording session. Closing with the slow ballad “Try the Lord,” the combination of organ and Kell Kellum’s pedal steel adds a country soul feel as the brothers beseech us to turn to the Lord when times are hard.
Whether you are a fan of gospel music or southern soul, Nobody’s Fault But My Own will certainly satisfy. The Sensational Barnes Brothers effectively capture the sound of Memphis during the heyday of Stax Records, the Bar-Kays, and Booker T. & the M.G.s., providing us with some sensational gospel soul.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss