There’s inherent risk in intermingling the lyrics of a legend with those of an under-the-radar jamband. But, it’s a risk that Chicago-based Mr. Blotto assumed when inviting John Perry Barlow, Bob Weir’s collaborator, to contribute to its fourth album, Barlow Shanghai.
The results are a mixed bag, but two aspects are clear: Barlow remains as prolific as ever, and Mr. Blotto, now in its 16th year, has crafted a sound that encompasses vast influences, which it restructures as its own.
Barlow’s pen appears on five stellar tracks, adding depth to a 15 song play list which occasionally digresses into cliché; the old home place of “Appalachian” and overt references to Jah as a provider in “Negril” seem stock, overshadowing the band’s delightful and innovative musical flights.
Barlow’s understated imagery is absorbed into the quintet’s milieu, particularly on the festive “Triolet.”
Ultimately, Barlow Shanghai is an ambitious song cycle worthy of a spin.