By Austyn Hutchison
Americana and bluegrass artist Billy Strings announced his next album, Me/And/ Dad was released on November 18th, and contains fourteen classic country and bluegrass songs that he and his father, Terry Barber, have played since Strings was growing up. He also recently released another single “John Deere Tractor” to go with the previously released “Long Journey Home” and “Life to Go”.
“John Deere Tractor”, a slow and melancholic country tune about returning to one’s roots after realizing there is nowhere else to go, is fitting for an album of classic songs with his father. One can almost feel the country breeze on a fall day when they hear Strings sing “hey mama, here’s a letter from your son/ I guess my city days are done” over the clear acoustic guitars, soft yet vibrant fiddle, and the tucked-away slide playing that gives it that classic country sound, similar to “Please Be with Me” by Cowboy.
String’s father Terry Barber joins in on the chorus to sing, “I’m like a John Deere tractor in a half-acre field/ trying to plow furrow where the soil is made of steel”. Even someone who can’t relate to farming life can get the picture here: being stuck somewhere that just doesn’t seem like it has much to offer. When I close my eyes and listen, I picture sitting on a back porch with your family somewhere in Appalachia, enjoying the simplicity and quiet the country has to offer.
I saw Billy Strings at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh on November 5th and it will be a concert I remember for a long time. I had never been to one of his concerts before, let alone a bluegrass show in general, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before the show started, I got a feeling this was going to be a jam concert due to the amount of Grateful Dead tee shirts I saw within the first five minutes. I was right. Billy and his band tore into several extended jams throughout the night and proved that they are much more than a bluegrass band.
One of my favorite parts of the night was, of course, hearing Billy play his guitar. Even on an acoustic, he played with so much intensity and passion that there were no doubts he was born to play. I was impressed with how dynamic they are, a long psychedelic jam would flow into some fast bluegrass pickin’ that showed just how strong and creative the band are as musicians. It is safe to say that show will not be my last, and I look forward to the next time Billy and his band return to Pittsburgh.