Press for Terminal Everything (June 2019)
And Terminal Everything, despite its death-centric title and myriad bleak moments, is not an album about despairing or giving up. It’s about voicing, acknowledging, and accepting the stuff all of us have to go through, and then offering an outstretched hand.
Accept that offer with your own hand, just like the two hands are doing on the cover of this remarkably moving record, easily the best independent release—hell, just make that the best album—I have heard in 2019 thus far.
Bark, Terminal Everything (Striped Light / Cool Dog Sound) A fine record from a Knoxville, TN duo that grapples with loss, specifically departed family, friends, and beloved animal companions, that’s tucked into a sleeve featuring an exceptional linocut artwork by drummer-vocalist Susan Bauer Lee and hand-printed via letterpress by Knoxville’s Striped Light Studio. Now, Bark is what happens when the Tim Lee 3 loses a member and Bauer Lee switches from bass to drums. They do enlist some help across Terminal Everything’s ten tracks (backing vocal touches, a little lap steel, some extra guitar, a likeable bit of rhyming by Black Atticus at the end of “Apocalypse Shimmy” and even electronics in the excellent closing Deep South rumination “Chimneyville”), so the sound isn’t really two-piece minimal.
Rather, it extends and adjusts the post-Paisley U-ground roots-pop action of the prior trio and the extensive earlier work of its guitarist-vocalist namesake. Tim Lee’s been a working musician since the ’80s in a bunch of different contexts (for the scoop, please dip into the review of Tim Lee 3’s Devil’s Rope in this website’s archives), but there isn’t a trace of fatigue in his playing, or for that matter in the record’s thematic weight. Instead, it deals with the pain that life can dish out in one of the best ways possible; by bonding together and creating artistically. The alternating/ shared vocals of Tim and Susan can still radiate like John Doe and Exene, and that’s cool, but there’s a sense of maturity that leads me to think fans of Don Dixon and Marti Jones will find Terminal Everything very much to their liking. A-
The result, really, has the ambience of a full – if spare – band. And that keeps the focus on the songs themselves. There’s a sense of heartbreak and loss pervading the album, a feel that’s underscored by a back-cover dedication to the memories of no less than four people (plus two more who might be animals).
That said, Tim and Susan have an upbeat demeanor as they sing that they have “Nothing to Complain About.” Nor will you when you spin this record. That optimism shines through on the dB’s-like “The Good Part.” Fans of the Windbreakers, TimLee3 and/or anything else involving either of these characters simply must add Terminal Everything to their collections. The vinyl pressing features lovely sleeve art and a lyric insert.
The AARP should hire Tim and Susan Bauer Lee, who perform and record as Bark, for all of their commercials. “This can’t be as good as it gets/if you ask me, we haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.” How’s that for an anthem, fellow sexagenarians? If you have a long memory and a big record collection, you might remember Tim Lee from his days in the Windbreakers, a twangaholic combo from the Eighties, or his time with the Tim Lee 3. Now he and his wife Susan play swampy blues and twangy country from their home in Knoxville, TN. Susan plays Emmylou Harris to Tim’s Gram Parsons, as big fat reverb’d guitars swagger to solid simple drum beats, on songs that range from the downbeat to the whimsical. Death recurs as a frequent theme: “Walk Small” reminds us of how time can whittle even the biggest of us down to size. On “This World,” a phone call brings the news that another old friend has passed away. But this album isn’t about wallowing in grief, it’s about taking life’s best shots and getting back up to try and try again. And as we all do the “Apocalypse Shimmy” to the Great Beyond, there’s power in the idea that we oughta throw a “Big Ol’ Party” to celebrate our lives, and “do it before it’s too late.”
“For Bark, the question isn’t whether life’s glass is half-full or half-empty; the point is to drink it all in deeply because it’s the only glass we get. This is music that celebrates life despite its necessary pains and setbacks.”
— Edward Whitelock
“After a year that found them each dealing with a loss of a parent and confronting mortality in often unexpected ways, it’s little wonder that their evocative new album “Terminal Everything” is their most expressive effort yet.”
— Lee ZImmerman
“Given that configuration, the music made by Bark draws more on the Mississippi hill country blues that’s part of their geographic DNA (they hail from the Magnolia State) than a standard folk duo dynamic. Tim’s a punk rock kid at heart, so any time he can send power cords boomeranging off the exposed beams of a dive bar while Susan pounds the skins behind him, he’s in his element. The darkest song on “Terminal Everything,” in fact, is a bluesy dirge called “Home.” It’s not an easy listen, especially when Tim talks about how, during the first Christmas without his mom, the red-and-green tree lights seemed to turn blue. In fact, it’s one the pair haven’t played, and he’s not sure if they will. …
On the flip side is the first song they’ve released off the record — “Big Ol’ Party,” a shuffling slab deep-fried blues featuring slide guitar by friend and fellow musician Josh Wright. If “Home” is the couple allowing themselves to grieve, then “Party” is a mouthful of warm beer spat directly into the Grim Reaper’s eyes.”
— Steve Wildsmith
Press for Year of the Dog (August, 2017)
The vibe here is homey and lo-fi, swampy blues and surf-rock tunes served sans frills. Susan’s no-nonsense drumming and Tim’s versatile Fender six-string bass handle the bulk of the workload, economically embellished by a few handclaps here, a shake of a tambourine there. The pair share vocal duties but gravitate toward distinct personas. […] But when the duo locks into a sultry backwater groove, as on “Interstate Blues” and the moody instrumental “Elbmur,” – that’s “rumble” in reverse, don’t cha know – the sparse instrumentation is hauntingly effective.
And if you’re one of those who looks askance at a guitar-and-drums group (a configuration that was done best by Flat Duo Jets and then worn out by endless other duos – I’m lookin’ at you, pasty-faced Jack White), I’d encourage you to set your preconceptions aside and give a listen. Year of the Dog is a fine release that gives equal time to Susan’s vocals as it does to Tim’s. And since both musicians play multiple instruments – the rare Fender VI is used extensively, for example – there’s more texture than you might expect from a two-person lineup.
The tracks of ‘Year of the Dog’ greet you with the familiar, controlled rock chaos that this husband-wife duo have become so synonymous with. These tracks – complete with little more than growling guitar and rumbling drums – are steeped in bluesy undertones and tossed in a number of rock n roll sub-genres.
‘Year of the Dog’ is surf-flavored, lo-fi, gritty garage-rock at its finest. You won’t find any elaborate guitar solos or drum fills peppering this release. Instead, they adhere to a no-frills, straightforward song structure and composition.
“The album’s 12 tracks pass by fast, like dusty mile markers momentarily captured in the headlights of a jalopy speeding down a country road to nowhere in particular but bound to get interesting. These are songs fueled equally by restlessness and compassion for life. The recording is crisp and clean, which may be the only arguable flaw here: the studio simply can’t recreate the ominous, feral growl of Bark playing live in a small club, like their home base at Knoxville, Tennessee’s Pilot Light.”
“… it’s no less visceral in feel, a garagey—at times, surf-toned—set that’s all killer, no filler.”
“While the TL3 could rock they mostly snuck in nifty melodies for all to hear but Bark is a different animal altogether. Susan, who plays drums here, had apparently never played drums before (just like she has never played bass before the TL3 started) while long-goateed Tim is still on the axe and yeah, It’s just the two of ‘em (with a few guests, but not many) this time out and the songs are just as strong, but darker, moodier but hey, they still have fun, too.”
“With Year of the Dog, Tim Lee and Susan Bauer Lee peel back the layers to give us just the naked songs. Gone are the chiming guitars and exquisite feedback. In it’s place, we get raw honesty. It’s a Helluva risk, if you think about it. And while the bass dependent nature of the recording may take some getting used to (at least for this long time fan, it did), it also provides some insight into the creative process.”
“… it became apparent from the outset that if the Tim Lee 3 is a shiny vintage Camaro IROC-Z, painted bright and buffed out, then Bark is a ’71 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, painted matte black with a few Bondo spots on the bumper but with a completely restored engine growling beneath the hood. “Year of the Dog” kicks off with the righteous swagger of “Miss Me,” the two instruments rattling off of one another with as syncopated orneriness that’s the sound of a snarl set to rock ‘n’ roll; a couple of songs later, they’re crawling along the side of the highway like an overheated copperhead on Mississippi blacktop, a steady-and-deadly meander toward an uncertain fate.”