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brokenNess - A Tale of Rebirth in Music... and in Life
By Holly Day
(more articles from this author)
2003-01-01
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The Tacoma, Washington trio of guitarist/vocalist Regan Barger, bassist Ray Hartman and percussionist Dana Estepa first played and recorded together in the eclectic Northwest rock band Groovy Times in Babylon, resulting in one album, "The Smallness That We Are." One of the tracks from that album, "Time Flies," spent six weeks in the Billboardtalent.net top ten, while another, "So Wrong," spent six months in the top 200 on the mp3.com alternative music charts. Unfortunately, just as things were starting to look up for the band, Barger himself was falling apart. His addiction to opiates spiraled out of control, causing him to lose his marriage, his job, his daughter, and ultimately, even his band.


"I Feel Bad" - RealVideo download
Live at Shoboat Cabaret (As seen on Puget Sounds TV)

The idea for brokenNess came to Barger in rehab as a play on words to describe the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the general population. After his 28-day stay at the drug and alcohol treatment center, Barger caught up with his former bandmates and enlisted their help in creating "ICU in Dandelions," a collection of songs that encapsulate Barger's trials and triumphs of the previous years, adding new songs to reflect even brighter Barger's optimistic perspective on his uncertain future.

"ICU in Dandelions" is laid out like a journal of recovery. The first track, "Mr. Indecision," is about just that Barger admits to knowing he had a problem with drugs, but didn't know what to do about it, and admits, with hindsight, that he was too terrified to actually confront his problem. "I Feel Bad" is about meeting his daughter Moyra's mother for the first time, and his attempts to clean up his life and be a good father to his infant daughter. The theme of the album grows darker from there, with Barger reflecting on his plummet through drug addiction with brutal honesty, growing lighter and more hopeful again through the process of healing.

MP3: "ICU In Dandylions"

The story surrounding the creation of the album is almost as poignant as the music itself. "In the early fall of 2000," says Barger, "my four-year-old Moyra and I were driving by a 7-11 when she blurted out, 'I see you in dandelions, Daddy.' I proceeded to tell her that was silly, but she insisted. 'No, Daddy, it's true.' That statement swirled around in my head for a couple of days... I sat down with my acoustic guitar and the [title] song just came out. I see it as divine inspiration. The story of the dandelion - which after dying and being spread across the sky comes back stronger than ever - is my story, and the story of countless people I know and have heard about. A rebirth."

MP3: "I Feel Bad"

Barger writes really pretty, accessible songs about longing in general, with seemingly simplistic musical arrangements that hit all the right notes to make these songs way too hummable. I mean, these are songs that are hard to get out of your head, they're just so damned catchy (hence, the use of the phrase "seemingly simplistic musical arrangements," because there is a skill to make songs so unforgettable). While these are mostly love songs, they're not sappy, or melodramatic in fact, they're spritely, and cheerful, and hopeful, with only a touch of melancholy here and there. Barger also has an absolutely amazing voice, sonorous and soft and melancholy, frustratingly impossible to do complicated tasks to because his music just fills and dominates a room. The resulting album is just pure joy to listen to - even though it's an awfully melancholy collection of songs, there's this wonderful current of wistful hope bubbling throughout the album that keeps it from ever being maudlin or truly sad, well-suited for an album that's centered around hope and redemption, love and loss. Backed by Hartman on bass and Estepa on percussion, this album is a remarkably intimate piece of work. There's an incredibly tender and fragile quality to "ICU in Dandelions" that makes it absolutely endearing to its listeners.

MP3: "The Ocean Makes Her Cry"

It's not hard to understand why so many people have drawn comparisons between this band to the late George Harrison and what he did with the Beatles. The spacey, lush guitar solos that characterized so much of Harrison's career are paid homage to in many of these songs, particularly in "I Feel Bad" and "Never the Same." Since their inception, and more so now with the release of this album, BrokenNess' music has become a mantra of hope for not only its members, but for anyone out there that has struggled with who they are and where they're headed. With the recent addition of newcomers Barry McGarry on guitar and Robert Richholt on keyboards, one can only expect even more great music from this inspirational band.

www.brokennessonline.com
www.mp3.com/BrokenNess


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