On 2018’s A Place to Call Home, Brightwire worked to capture their sound as the acoustic-based duo of Samuel and Kimberly Barker. Overdubs were minimal, all basic tracking was cut live and a strict timeline was placed on completion of the album to prevent overdoing the songs. What people heard on the album was comparable to the show they had just witnessed. For their new album, Cracked, Flawed and Frayed, nothing was off the table.
Since the release of A Place to Call Home, Michael Helfenstein of The Grizzly Band joined as a full-time member on dobro and steel guitar. Brightwire has also occasionally been joined by John Stoll of the High Lonesome Heavy Metal duo, Grifters & Shills, as a multi-instrumentalist in recent years. Having three core members, as well as Stoll, who had all spent time as side musicians, Brightwire had the ability to put together an album more focused on the songs rather than the limits of the live band’s instrumentation. That left Brightwire holding an album recorded as a full band with each member taking on multiple roles and also some violin/fiddle tracks from The Urban Pioneers’ Liz Sloan-McGovern.
Cracked, Flawed and Frayed is a mix of new songs and selected older tracks: “The new songs were looking through the lens of our current world and deserved some company on the album that related to them. This led to choosing older songs that fit the narrative of redemption and trying to get things right when given the chance. Living through 2020, we’ve seen a lot of darkness, but also, a lot has come out into the light that gives us an opportunity to do better as we move forward,” Samuel explains.
Cracked, Flawed and Frayed was released on March 11, 2021. The date was chosen for specific reasons: First, it was be Samuel & Kimberly’s 4th anniversary, but also it was on that date that the United States screeched to a halt due to the pandemic. Brightwire hope that the date will be about reclamation and celebration rather than the feeling of loss that left no one untouched in 2020.
To sum it up, Samuel remarked, “We used this dark period to create an album we’re proud of and feel absolutely at peace with since we could not do it with the peripheral world. Initially, the idea was to see how far we could take each track just trading recordings back and forth online, but I feel like we quickly moved on from that line of thought to one of just serving the songs. This is the first album I’ve sent out in the world that is complete and saw the songs taken to their end rather than just a document of that moment in time for the band.”