Music Review: Jeff Rowe – Barstool Conversations

Growing up in a tough town just north of Boston, Jeff Rowe (no, not the football player) did not not necessarily have it easy.  Without going into detail on his life, I can tell you he was in the punk band BoxingWater, a band that released a couple of albums with ideals that revolved around the hard times and then moved along once the band called it splits.

Rather than continuing moving along with a punk rock sound, Rowe took his guitar and headed out of his hometown and found himself spending time in Richmond, VA perfecting his music that turned more of a folk act.  Taking personal experiences he assembled songs over time and released Barstool Conversations an album he recorded in Richmond with Lance Koehler (Tim Barry) before returning home.

I know, I know…another punk rock guy playing folk music?  Yes, it has been happening a lot and if you are like me you not only like it, you appreciate it.  Recently Barstool Conversations arrived in my mailbox, Rowe’s debut solo attempt.  I listened to it upon receiving it and then set it aside until I could actually get a better listen.  This past weekend I finally popped it back in and really enjoyed the personal, heartfelt tunes Rowe plays on the album with help from a backing band.

The album started off a little slow with “Passenger”, a quite personal track about leaving and returning.  “Kate” sped up slightly and with help from Smoke Or Fire vocalist, Joe McMahon on backing vocals, turned in to a fun jam to listen to.  “Bastards Love” might be best heard in a hardly filled barroom in the middle of nowhere.  The gloomy track perfectly could compliment any bad day alongside a stiff drink.

Things picked up when “An Album’s Point Of View” played as it was more upbeat than previous tracks.  I loved this track because of the lyrics that seemed to have Rowe coming with terms on a tough life and making the best of life.  “I’ve got friends that are more than blood,” was one lyric that I can attest to.

One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Dead Authors”, was another personal track, almost too personal, with Rowe talking of family problems and foreclosure.  The gentle piano behind Rowe’s raspy singing was the perfect compliment to this bittersweet track.

“Service Of Hardship” was a toe-tapping folk jam that hinted heavy on Frank Turner.  “Thinnest Strands” was a very soulful track while “Stolen Songs” begged to be sung along with.

“Glenville” was another track I really enjoyed on the album.  This is the kind of song I wish I would write to swoon someone with.  “No Place” was another perfect barroom jam with captivating back-up vocals throughout.  “Pale Face” ended the album with another slower track that perked up midway with piano and accompanying vocals from a slew of friends including Lance Koehler.

Jeff Rowe does a great job writing songs and playing acoustic guitar.  I just wish the album was a little more upbeat throughout as many of the songs he wrote revolved around the tougher times of his life.  I would love to see him take a stab at another album with a more positive approach.  Rowe definitely has some talent and I can not wait to see where it takes him.

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