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Zarbo - Zarbo

  by Lisa Torem

published: 1 / 8 / 2011

Zarbo - Zarbo
Label: Tune Records
Format: CD


Caustic yet gutsy and solid debut album from experimental Brighton-based duo, Zarbo

Zarbo is essentially a duo consisting of Andy Heath, on lead vocals and guitar, and Paul Bishop, on banjo, Dobro and backing vocals. Both artists are from Brighton and both play percussion. Heath is the chief songwriter. His caustic reflections resemble both Tom Robinson and John Prine. Their arrangements are rootsy; acoustic, murky strumming accompanies Heath’s brash voice. Sometimes the backing instruments recall a New Orleans “cake walk” – a kind of heavy-handed dirge. Heath is a songwriter’s songwriter, having written for Sinead O’Connor and Eno. Bishop is a successful Nashville session player. The combination works so well that the album seems like it would be a follow-up, not a debut. “One too many friends you’ve watched crash and burn/One too many yesterdays…” is the resounding lyric from the third number, ‘One Too Many Yesterdays’. Like this one, many of the themes are shrouded in disappointment, but Heath doesn’t bury us with his misgivings – instead, he illustrates each story with genuine, emotional detail. Some songs, like ‘Tuesday Night’ are more “slice-of-life”, than confessional, but no less moving. ‘Moany Moany’ has a particularly old-timey feel: “Stop giving it moany, moany/Stop giving it boo-hoo-hoo.” The unpredictable ‘Soul Vampires’ allows Heath’s voice to emote into a whisper. The weird line, “Soul vampires suck you dry”, works because all the twang that lies beneath the vocals fully supports it. ‘Precious Thing’ is another lesson in humility: ‘Love, love, love may hit you like a hammer…” ‘Whole Lot Better’ explores the emptiness of loss – “Friends will come and go/They’re easily replaced,” and then holds it up to a sonic mirror: “You’re an emotional cripple and we love you for it.” ‘Walking Back to Happiness” is stirring and sad and could be a genuine tearjerker. “I give you nothing, but you still want more” jumps out of ‘Talking to Da Man’ which is punctuated by a charming kazoo solo. ‘Healed by the Hands of Elvis’ seems a bit out of place, given the direct, lyrical approach of the other eleven, but it still works as a basis for Heath’s gutsy vocal. In essence, Zarbo’s self-titled, CD is rife with solid writing and definitely worth a listen.

Track Listing:-
1 Man Monkey
2 Don't End Up Working In A Supermarket
3 One Too Many Yesterdays
4 Tuesday Night
5 Moany Moany
6 Soul Vampires
7 Precious Thing
8 Whole Lot Better
9 Walking Back To Happiness
10 Talking To Da Man
11 Slaughterhouse Rag
12 Healed By The Hands Of Elvis

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