"Kick the Habit" from the album Pancho and the Kid
If the Spin Doctors are broken up, lead singer Chris Barron says that's news to him.
The mixed commercial success of their recent albums and the band's perpetual love/hate relationship with themselves have influenced Barron to record his first mainstream solo effort, Pancho and the Kid. Produced with friend Jeff Cohen, Barron released the album in 2007 and recently hit the road for a mini-tour alongside notable New York musicians The Time Bandits — keyboardist Jon Loyd, drummer Phil Cimino, guitarist Lance Doss, and bassist Brett Bass.
To Barron, the long-time lure of creative autonomy finally proved too strong to resist. "Only one out of every five or 10 songs I write is a Spin Doctors tune," he says. "But every song I write is a Chris Barron tune."
The author of such '90s pop classics as "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong," Barron wanted his solo album to take his music to "emotional places the Spin Doctors never go." Coming from the rhythmic, often funky, and even primal sound that defines the Spin Doctors irresistible beat, Barron wanted to use Pancho and the Kid to reach his audience through lyrics and subtle humor. "If you can make people laugh, you can make them listen," he says.
It wasn't exactly easy for Barron to make the leap from frontman back to his roots as "just a dude with a guitar."
Believe it or not, creating and defining an individual sound isn't all ukuleles and Spanish Brandy. "There was a certain insecurity at first," Barron confides. "I really wondered if people were even interested in seeing me as a solo artist."
His new material draws from a large number of influences, some of which may surprise those familiar with the Spin Doctors. Sheepishly acknowledging that he's a New York native, and perhaps lacking the authenticity of Southern country roots, Barron claims his childhood love for the music of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson, among others, played a formative role in the "Americana" style of Pancho and the Kid.
On the album, Barron demonstrates an impressive scope of sound and a grasp on lyrical abilities that can only come with experience. From the dancing Cajun harmonica of "Louisiana Holiday" to the plaintive string melodies of "Can't Kick the Habit" to his undeniably Cash-esque twang on the poignant "Part of Me," Pancho and the Kid explores Barron's own "emotional range" as well as that of his audience.
At the Pour House on Tuesday evening, fans can expect to be treated to the entire Chris Barron experience — from Spin Doctors hits to songs from Pancho and Barron's previous release, Shag.
As for the Spin Doctors, their days are far from numbered, Barron says.
"I can't picture a future that doesn't include making another record with the band," he says. "It's like a marriage. There's give and take, but when we count off a song, it's magic."
Fortunately for Pancho and his Time Bandits, a bit of that magic seems to have rubbed off.