No Barbers Required - Hard To Hold On To
All written by Philippe Hamelin, except for "One For The Road" written by guitarist Scott Meleksie, the songs recorded by No Barbers Required on their debut LP Hard To Hold On To are in a way, a tribute to the songs sung by the late fathers of country music. Never pretending to be as great, NBR songs like "Just Happy Bein' Blue", "If Both My Hands" and "It Only Took A Beer" aren't too far in their moods and subject matter as classics like "There's a Tear in my Beer", "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" and "Lovesick Blues". Still, even though the band is heavily influenced by the honky tonk tradition set forth by artists like Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb, they retain a high level of originality.
About half of the songs on the album were written by Hamelin before No Barbers Required even existed; Philippe Hamelin had a bunch of wild and fast-paced country songs with him when he went to Scott Meleskie to see if the latter would help him bring his work to life. Meleskie had spent many years playing in punk bands so the high-octane melodies were easily accessible to him and he rapidly transformed the songs with guitar hooks that were quite uncommon to hear in country music. The result was so good that the pair decided to recruit other musicians and the duo soon became a six-piece orchestra. Joining Hamelin and Meleskie were Patrick Nadon on drums, John Misrahi on dobro/steel/accordion, Laura Lee Officer on fiddle and Timothy Croft on upright bass.
With the band in place, the old songs went through a second transformation. New songs also came into play; the process was the same: Hamelin came in with the body and each member dressed it up. Meleskie stayed true to his punk patterns while Misrahi and Officer (sister of Jordan Officer), both roots musicians, added some authenticity. Nadon, whose famous uncle, Montreal jazz drummer Guy Nadon, had taught him basic patterns in his youth and Croft, a jazz student, brought steadiness and lots of bottoms.
After years of playing everywhere from small clubs to private parties to bowling alleys to bigger venues and establishing themselves as one of Montreal's best country acts (twice voted in the Montreal Mirror's poll), the band headed to the studio in the Summer of 2007. NBR teamed-up with producer/engineered Jay Lefebvre, a man who could translate the energy and attitude of their live shows to disc. The result is an album that belongs just as much at the Grand Ole Opry as it does at the Grand Ole Rowdy; the 1-2-3-4 of The Ramones meets the sorrow and soul of Hank Williams.