(Ruth St. Records)
David Barbe ranks as an influential sonic guru/producer/player on the Athens, Georgia, music scene. He’s produced records for The Drive By Truckers, Vic Chesnutt, Bloodkin, Bettye LaVette, Booker T. Jones and a long list of others.
The Athens players on this record consist of Barbe on vocals, guitar, keys, percussion and zurna; Jon Mills handles the bass; The Drive By Truckers’ John Neff commands pedal steel/guitar; Frank MacDonnel plays guitar and Kyle Spence holds the beat. The last week of February and the first week of March, Barbe and The Quick Hooks will open shows for the Drive By Truckers. For these live shows, Trucker Brad Morgan will serve as the Quick Hooks’ drummer.
Recorded at Barbe’s own Chase Park Studio in Athens, these nine songs verify his sheer musical talent. The title of the record originated from a quote by the great Spooner Oldham. Bassist Jon Mills told me this about the title: “I think Spooner said it when they were recording with The Truckers. I know when David wanted to name the record that he called Spooner and asked him if he could use the quote and Spooner said it was cool.”
Love It, Don’t Choke It To Death opens with “The Broadcast Spreader”. After, producing many great albums for many artists, Love It epitomizes the “David Barbe Sound”. Barbe told me hours before taking the stage to open for the Truckers in Charlottesville, Virginia: “The songs range--where the genesis of the song is about two years old. Other ones are brand new.”
“In The Weeds” counts as one of this collection’s finest songs. A slow, dirge-like tune that conjures some deep emotive feeling that comes to the surface through the lyrics, some of which are beautifully obscured in great rock and roll fashion. Once the lyrics are read, the song’s meaning develops even more.
“When The Miracles Are Done”, in this writer’s opinion, serves as the album’s centerpiece. Barbe revealed, “We practiced the song once. The take on the record is the next one. That’s a brand new song. The newest one.” The song contains a hypnotic resonance, and the lyrics evoke a smoke in the garden mystery: “I am the secret you never tell/Splashing in yr wishing well/When yr all alone/I'm coming to you in yr dreams/from either side and in between/Until I'm all you know.”
Neff and MacDonnell weave addictive twangs and tones, creating a cohesive streamlined mood to the album. Mill’s solid melodic bass serves as the band's foundation. Barbe said this about his band mates: “On this we just follow the songs. I love the way they play. The Quicks Hooks are song sympathetic players, which is why I like playing with them so much.”
“Shiny Bird” and “Mole In The Guffer” offer musical avenues only Barbe and these talented musicians could pull off. The album ends with the gem “Better Than Dust”, a song that emits an interesting, zen-like, sentiment in the lyrics we should all live by: “The problem with these things you pursue/Is what you learn when it's in yr grasp/And when you find you don't want what it offered/Kill yr pride/Fling it into the past…”
Love It, Don’t Choke It To Death counts as one of the best releases of 2010.