Sensational Barnes Bros photos by Bill Reynolds
“Son, just keep on, keep doing what you're doing. Let it be good,” sings the father, and his grown children, standing close by, echo his words. “Let it be good.” It's a moment of faith in both God and the father, for the younger ones seem to know the message of this song in their hearts already. They are already living it. To most, “Let It Be Good” will only be a track on the Sensational Barnes Brothers’ debut album, Nobody’s Fault But My Own, but for Courtney and Chris Barnes, it expresses an unbreakable bond with their own father, Calvin “Duke” Barnes. As with all the songs on the record, it was chosen from the legendary 1970s catalog of the Designer Records label, but it could well have been written by the Barnes family themselves. “It's crazy for that to be the song he sang with us. You can hear all the conversations he used to have with you through that one piece of music,” says Courtney. It's a poignant observation, for only three months after the brothers invited their father to sing on the track, Duke Barnes passed away.
The Sensational Barnes Brothers are a melting pot of the old and the new. As Pop Matters states, “The brothers run through a spectrum of moods and modes in their gospel soul, often bridging the gap between, say, the Soul Stirrers and Stax, all the while keeping a local flavor.” The Barnses’ are able to dive deep into their roots, creating a sound that reflects the music of their history, all the while drawing in a modern-day audience. Family was and is a huge part of the creation of their sound. Their father’s lovely wife, Deborah, was the daughter of Rev. James L. Gleese, founder of the Beale Street Mission, and music came to her even more naturally than it did to her husband. But she still wasn't prepared for the day when the phone rang and a voice on the other end said, “Hello, this is Ray Charles.” Deborah answered the call and became a Raelette, one of the background singers for the Genius of Soul, before love, marriage and children demanded that she leave the touring life behind. The Barnes family then carried on as musical collaborators for years and still play and sing together, even with their father gone. In 2015, the family released an album, Family Tree, before Chris and Courtney began to focus on putting together The Sensational Barnes Brothers.
Prior to the release of their debut album, Chris and Courtney worked with legends of soul and R&B as well as modern-day award winning artists. The brothers featured as background vocalists on Don Bryant’s Grammy nominated album Don't Give Up on Love. Chris also joined longtime singer and performer Larry Dodson, former lead of the Bar-Kays, in the launch of his solo career. More recently, the brothers have worked with Latin Grammy nominated ensemble Making Movies, as well as with Dan Auerbach, lead singer of The Black Keys, on his solo work. But the Sensational Barnes Brothers main focus is now their own group, bringing it all back home to music they grew up with. Inspired by their shared past and fueled by harmonies that resonate with both their blood ties and their kindred souls, the brothers see themselves singing, playing, and dancing to this music for a long time to come. You can be certain you will join with them when they hit the Canan Commons stage.