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James The Fang & Serious Sam Barrett James The Fang & Serious Sam Barrett
Album: The Dime Horseshoe
Label: YaDig
Tracks: 10

Sometimes, when the list of albums for review lands in my E-Mail inbox, all there is to go on is a name and when I saw this particular duo on the list, I must admit it was purely their name that piqued my interest.

James The Fang is perhaps better known as Jamie Barrier of Alabama purveyors of "Ghost Music" The Pine Hill Haints, while Serious Sam Barrett is a roots/country/folk musician from Yorkshire and this Anglo American duo was born out of a friendship formed over several years touring the coast of the Gulf of Mexico together during the Mardi Gras Season.

Recorded in just one day in a house on Dauphin Island, just off the Alabama coast, The Dime Horseshoe is a transatlantic collaboration in so much more than name only with both the performers and the songs having their roots on both sides of the Atlantic.

James and Sam both have an interest in traditional songs & several of the tracks on this album are early American Folk songs which would have either been brought over by British and Irish settlers, or would have been adapted from British and Irish folk songs.

The first two tracks on The Dime Horseshoe, When First Unto This Country and Santa Fe Trail, fall into that category, and their UK and Irish roots are evident in James and Sam's performance to the point that these recordings are possibly the closest anybody in the 21st Century is likely to get to hearing these songs as they would have been performed by the settlers around the campfire on overnight stops as they headed out west, particularly when Englishman Sam takes the vocals.

As I mentioned earlier, The Dime Horseshoe is a mix of traditional and original songs but, such is the quality of James and Sam's writing that, to the uninitiated, it is sometimes hard to tell which is which without paying close attention to the lyrics. For me, the two standout original tracks are The Dime Horseshoe, a tale of touring in modern America, sleeping on people's floors, playing in bars and Skateboarding, and Roses On The Dashboard, a modern love song in an old timey style.

In The Dime Horseshoe, James and Sam have produced an album that harks back to the earliest days of American folk music and that anybody with an interest in traditional music will enjoy, whether its British or American Folk, Old Time Country or Bluegrass. This album has a sound that stays true to it's traditional origins but, such are it's production values I am sure the most people would not, if asked, be able to say with any confidence that this album was recorded in limited time using fairly basic recording equipment.

This is an album that has now been on constant play in my car for a fortnight now and I still haven't tired of listening to it. Do yourselves a favour, go and get a copy of this album, you won't be disappointed.

Oh, by the way, in case you're wondering The Dime Horseshoe is a biker bar in Wyoming that a regular stop on Pine Hill Haints/Serious Sam Barrett tours.

David Chamberlain