Barry Allen is Back, with The New Rebels

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Barry Allen is Back, with The New Rebels

Postby jon » Wed May 04, 2016 6:16 am

Edmonton music producer Barry Allen hits the stage with new rebels
Roger Levesque
Edmonton Journal
Published on: May 3, 2016
Last Updated: May 3, 2016 12:30 PM MDT

What makes a veteran studio engineer and producer want to hit the stage?

For Barry Allen, it’s all about reliving his roots, the hits he made years ago with The Rebels, and trying out fresh tunes with The New Rebels.

The new band packs a lot of experience: Al McGree (The Lords, Privilege) on keys and sax, Percy Marshall (The Classics, Nomads, Celtic Fusion) on guitars, Clay White (The Lords, Privilege) on drums, and Del Chadwick on bass.

Once a successful solo artist, Edmonton singer-guitarist Allen had a No. 1 record (Lovedrops, 1967) and more nationally charted hits, winning multiple Maple Awards (before they were renamed the Junos), a contract with Capitol Records, and national radio and television exposure.

Eventually he found out he enjoyed being behind the sound board even more. Since 1985 Allen has been the principle force behind hundreds of sessions at Homestead Recorders, the studio that made k.d.lang’s first albums. More recently he has overseen dates for Corb Lund, Wide Mouth Mason, and Captain Tractor, picking up two Western Canada Music Awards.

Allen was prepping for a record date with The Fusionauts’s Paul Richey when he spoke last week.

Q: Do you still use much tape at Homestead?

A: Richey’s band is going to tape, live off the floor, so it will be great, like old-school recording. Getting tape is really tough. Two-inch tape is so expensive now, but I happened to have a few rolls leftover so they’re coming in handy. I’ve got another rock session coming up this spring, metal guys, and they like to use tape too. I’m an analogue (tape) guy myself, but for most stuff I’m working in the digital domain with a really good 24-track dedicated hard-disc recorder system.

Q: It sounds like you have mixed feelings about the digital era.

A: It hasn’t always been kind to the arts, though some things are easier. There are probably a lot of people making music who maybe shouldn’t be, but if the convenience of digital technology gives them a chance, maybe they will turn into something.

Q: Some of the musicians you record are probably too young to appreciate how far back your own musical experience goes.

A: That’s OK (laughs). I started playing as a kid and The Rebels were the first band I really did anything serious with, through 1964, ’65 and ’66. It was such a good band. We used to go down to New Mexico to record with Norman Petty. Eventually he wanted me to record as a soloist and we had a few hits played across the country. Then it was The Rebels featuring Barry Allen.

Q: The name The New Rebels tells me you’re deliberately looking back to that time.

A: When the new band performs we still play about a dozen of my old recordings, and we cover material from that era that a lot of people haven’t heard before. We do Hound Dog, but we do the Big Mama Thornton version, and Willie & The Hand Jive, and we do a Traveling Wilburys number. People love to hear those old tunes and I want to make one more record before I stop.

Q: I’m sure the sound has evolved from the first Rebels. Is the new band more roots rock?

A: It’s rootsier, and the covers have more of a rootsy flavour too.

Q: What drew you to the production side of things?

A: I just couldn’t stand being on the road when I had a young family. It really started in the mid-1970s when I went to work at Sundown Recorders and for Tommy Banks at Century II. Keith James and I opened Homestead Recorders in 1985. I bought Keith out and we’ve been going full bore ever since.

It’s one of those crafts that takes a long time to get good at. And when you work with analogue, you learn to be tidy and organized, to take care of details when you’re tracking. I still do at least 10 full-blown projects every year and a lot of smaller things.

Q: You must have recorded just about every genre but in recent decades it seems that you have had a special flair for recording roots and jazz artists.

A: I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of really good Alberta artists, but that’s kind of a niche I’ve carved out. I work a lot with singer-songwriters who come to me. Rebecca Lappa comes to mind, an immensely talented artist.

Q: I’m sure some artists need more guidance than others.

A: Some, you hear them sing well and you sense that the songs just need to be tweaked a bit. They can be a joy to produce but it’s still stressful because you want to do the best you can for them.


Barry Allen & The New Rebels

Where: Uptown Folk Club (7308 76 ave. [Edmonton])

When: Friday May 6, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $18 members, $20 non-members, at the door or in advance from Myhre’s Music or
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