Brian Hebert’s prior album was titled Any Time At All – A Session Picker’s Tribute to The Beatles. With Raising the Bar, however, Hebert has chosen to mix and match song melodies like a mad scientist. But what may read like musical madness turns out to be beautifully restless creative energy,instead.
Whereas the familiar “House of the Rising Sun” comes out relatively traditional, “The Blue Jug” turns out jazzy and swinging with cool-ly bent blues notes. “Planxty Page” is another one that swings like a jazz combo. Perhaps nothing expresses Hebert’s border-less approach better than the title (and the music contained on) “Paddy’s Trip to Budapest.” The title suggests an Irishman abroad, yet the actual musical style suggests something far more European. This one is followed by the gently banjo-led “Whistle,” which is quietly pretty.
Proving Hebert still has an ear out for contemporary music, he gives Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” a somber, classical quartet take, which ultimately evolves into a subtle Irish dance number. Instead of attempting to be clever, Hebert shows deep respect for this punk-pop classic, which reveals him to be a real musician’s musician.