By Kenny Berkowitz
When Billy Strings was two years old, his biological father died from a heroin overdose. That makes Terry Barber—an amateur bluegrass musician who married Strings’ mother—the man he calls dad. And that makes Me/And/Dad a happily unlikely outcome for father and son, a chance to record an album rooted so deeply in memory and gratitude, addiction and recovery.
These are songs Strings first heard as a boy, the classic country weepers of George Jones (“Life to Go”), proto-bluegrass of the Monroe Brothers (“Long Journey Home”), old-time gospel of Jimmy Martin (“Little White Church”), and flatpicked folk of Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton (“Peartree”). They’re tunes he’s been playing since he was old enough to hold a guitar, and when he and Barber play them now—Strings on a 1944 Martin D-28 and Barber on a 1993 Martin D-93 that Strings tracked down after Barber pawned it—they channel two lifetimes full of regret, loss, and disappointment.
On songs like Lester Flatt’s “Little Cabin Home on the Hill,” they sound as close as brothers, and though Strings could play circles around his dad (or just about anyone else), everything on this album is designed to keep Barber in the spotlight, enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime, dream-come-true support of Mike Bub (bass), Michael Cleveland (fiddle), Rob McCoury (banjo), Ron McCoury (mandolin), Jerry Douglas (resophonic guitar), and Jason Carter (fiddle). It’s an album as old-fashioned as a crew-cut, and best of all, Barber is more than good enough for center stage. Who’da thunk it?