You want to root for Chris Barron. You liked him when you first heard him in The Spin Doctors (who were such an important part of the burgeoning jam/ HORDE Festival scene in the early 1990s). You liked all those catchy songs he sang (except of course that one about the chick that couldn’t be wrong). You liked him whenever he popped up at some random festival for a song or two. And you really wanted to see him succeed after he was diagnosed with a rare form of vocal chord paralysis that basically brought an end to The Spin Doctors and left him no better than a 50-50 chance of ever talking again. This is why, now that Barron has regained his voice and begun to sing again, even playing sporadically again with the Spin Doctors, you are pleasantly surprised with his new solo album.
Pancho and the Kid is full of simple, catchy tunes that seem to form a letter to a long-lost love. It is a mature step away from the Spin Doctors, and there are tracks that clearly point to greater things (“Can’t Kick the Habit”, “I Must Be The King”), aiming to recapture some of the magic he had found before. This makes it tough not to be completely excited about this album. However, there are too many misses to leave you fully satisfied.
You want to see Barron singing the same fun quirky songs he did with the Spin Doctors, and when he does, those are the tunes that stand out on the album. He has yet to fully develop this new mature solo side, and he is still too closely associated with “Two Princes” and “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” to be seen as the sensitive songwriter guy just yet. But no matter, I have been rooting for Barron this long, and he always seemed to pull through, so I will keep on rooting for him now.
It’s tough because you so want to like Pancho and The Kid. You want to see Barron do well, and it’s tough to not like the new songs. But ultimately, while they are good songs, there is nothing new about them, and they don’t have that fun and quirkiness that populated Barron’s work with the Spin Doctors.
Pancho and the Kid is out now.