Unleashed on October 4, ‘Year of the Dog’ is the latest release from Knoxville’s flagship power duo, Bark. Made up of husband Tim Lee on guitar and vocals and Susan Bauer Lee on drums and vocals, ‘Year of the Dog’ is the group’s first venture since their self-titled debut release back in February of 2015. It’s a fitting album title given their band name, Bark., which the couple named after their affinity for canines.
Recorded here in town at Top Hat Recording Studio, ‘Year of the Dog’ is a howlin’ good album that offers a hearty representation of the musical talent Knoxville has to offer.
The tracks of ‘Year of the Dog’ greet you with the familiar, controlled rock chaos that this husband-wife duo have become so synonymous with. These tracks – complete with little more than growling guitar and rumbling drums – are steeped in bluesy undertones and tossed in a number of rock n roll sub-genres.
‘Year of the Dog’ is surf-flavored, lo-fi, gritty garage-rock at its finest. You won’t find any elaborate guitar solos or drum fills peppering this release. Instead, they adhere to a no-frills, straightforward song structure and composition. Part of what provides Bark. with their signature grit is Tim’s ax of choice – a Fender VI, a six-string bass guitar tuned an octave lower than standard guitar tuning.
It’s important to take note of their lyrics as well Susan kicks off “Revolution #None” with the lines, “Come on down, let’s start a revolution. Everybody’s got their own d#mn solution; a man with a mouth is more noise pollution.”
Similarly, the duo tackles the subject of climate change in “Living Underwater.” Fronted by Susan, she paints a picture of a world submerged in water. Imagining how Jesus would react to the mess, she sings, “I gave you a garden that you’ve managed to slaughter, so good luck with all that now that you’re living underwater.”
“Interstate Blues” is a slow, meandering tune that replicates the monotony of extended travel. Tim sings, “Got my foot on the gas, my direction is true; still, I can’t shake these interstate blues.”
A handful of guest players litter the release; Christina Horn contributes Moog on “Revolution #None,” while “The Only Cure” sees baritone lap steel from Josh Wright.
“Lazarus” is an upbeat, jangly tune and even includes a few guest hand clappers – Phil Fuson, Kevin Abernathy and Mary Podio – the latter of which also assisted with album production. Each of these elements, combined with Susan’s hard-edged vocals provide the tune with a “Walk Like an Egyptian” type vibe.
Oftentimes, Tim and Susan swap vocal duties from track to track. Susan takes lead in some instances, while Tim takes center stage in others. Then there are some tracks, like “Miss Me” and “Waste Your Breath” that feature shared vocal responsibilities.
Listening to ‘Year of the Dog’ is a bit like taking a stroll back in time. The album has nostalgic feel to it, bringing to light countless American pastimes such as baseball in “Ball Park,” backroad driving in “One-Eyed Driving,” and drive-ins in “Ends of the World.”
My advice – grab a copy of this album on vinyl, throw it on your turntable, and crank the volume up to 11.