Kara Barnard brought her instrumental, lyrical and vocal talent to Boulevard Place Cafe last Friday night, along with her sister, Pam Barnard Hays, and their cousin Mary. (I am certain that Mary has a last name, but I looked back through a bunch of old email newsletters and can't find it.) Kara and Pam, with Mary on percussion, did several songs from their latest CD, Flying Down King Street, as well as from earlier recordings.
As if that wasn't pleasing enough for an evening of music, Kara, Pam and Mary were joined by Pennsylvania singer-songwriter Nicole Reynolds and Missouri singer-songwriter, Kara Kulpa, also known as Kara Jr. When all five shared the stage and found their resonance, the result was so invigorating that it's no wonder Kara Barnard, also known as Kara Sr., calls this ensemble her ideal band.
Nicole started the evening off with a solo set. I have to admit that I am not as taken by her songwriting as others seem to be. Her vocal performance is so understated that her lyrics are all too often imperceptible. However, Ms. Reynolds really shines when she steps out of the spotlight. As a supporting musician, her melodic instincts and sense of ensemble take over, and as a result anyone she plays with rises to another level.
Kara Kulpa (Junior) took the stage next. Kara obviously enjoys herself on stage and carries her songs with beautiful, strong vocals, although at times her vocal overwhelmed the room and the sound system and became cutting. Her song, This House, is Kara Kulpa at her best, and she closed the set with, well, a song in praise of her capo. Handy little gadgets they are!
Kara Sr. then took the stage with Pam and Mary. Opening with my favorite Kara Barnard song, Never the Less, from the Home CD, and moving on into the title track from Kara and Pam's latest release, Flying Down King Street, the rest of the evening was a musical joy ride. Kara Sr. is the kind of seasoned professional that welcomes the opportunity to let younger performers shine.
When Kara Jr. and Nicole joined the ensemble, the group hit a zone where they instinctively played off one another. Kara Kulpa's multi-instrumental skills shined. Nicole's burgeoning guitar virtuosity rolled the group along. Mary played the best percussion solo on a bucket I've ever heard. Pam delighted and engaged the crowd. The only disappointment was that Kara Sr. never strapped on her Jeff Russell custom-built banjo. Next time, please!
This was a delightful evening that blended the rawness of emerging musicians with the seasoning of experienced players. Check out any of these musicians any time you can hear them play.