The Glass Hours - The Glass Hours

Cornelius Chapel Records 


The Glass Hours is a unique duo comprising Brad Armstrong and Megan Barbera. On this self-produced debut album, they carry the torch where Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris left off in their day, delivering beautifully produced, sometimes moody, songs with knockout harmonies. They’re able to fluently reconfigure sounds that carry a lot of historical baggage into something new. It’s an approach that eschews any hint of a modern musical form, which makes their striking sound like something culled from a collection of lost songs, mainly of Appalachian origin, from half-a-century ago. Serving like a soundtrack for a film set in Appalachia during rough and tumble times some 50-odd years prior, the nine-song set boasts a distinct air of authenticity that serves to enhance the film’s narrative and bring the story of a rugged rural life to full fruition. telling tales of romance, small-town piety, and dark goings-on, the pair make no real effort to ply the material in a contemporary context. The arrangements are pared down in a way that adds to the authenticity.

Whilst both Brad and Megan are proficient, occasionally dazzling musicians, the true allure of this album lies within the melding of two contrasting voices creating a marriage of song and voice that is uniquely their own. They write songs with an ear for narrative just as much as for melody. The only additional musician is fiddle-player Sue Westcott, who provides the main accompaniment to the opener Hurricane. Not so much concerning the destructive weather phenomena, but about the meeting between a hitchhiker, born in a hurricane, and the driver who picks her up on the highway. A delicately picked guitar sets the tone for Scarlet Tongues, which tells the familiar story of a wanderer who can’t wait to get back home to his loved one. There’s a jaunty rhythm to Rattlesnake Springs, which takes them on a wagon trail west. It’s a gentle tale simply told as they never opt for flash over finesse. Megan takes the lead on Sing My Song, a gorgeous tune, full of lush soul and accented with haunting slide guitar touches. It’s honest and humble in a most unassuming way.

Silver For Mine Eyes is steeped in the American Gothic with justice Southern style at the end of a hangman’s rope, as the narrator pleads for forgiveness and calls out to his mother and father in the dark and dire lyrics. The musical arrangement utilising haunting fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar, and a desperate drumbeat is straight out of a Depression-era set movie.  From the dreamy harmony haze of Same Old You to the gut-wrenching nostalgia of Covering Blue and the closing plaintive story of Annie, this is a record that grows and grows on you. Musically, the record is at times spare to the point of being skeletal—ethereal rhythm patterns with spindly guitar parts cobwebbed in—leaving their cool, understated delivery plenty of room to abuse your own bruised heart with their thoughtful, sad-tinged lyrics.

February 2024