Split Livers mix best of 2 worlds

Gottstine and Barnes find common ground in collaboration

Wayne Gottstine of Split Lip Rayfield and Danny Barnes of the Bad Livers have joined to create the Split Livers. The high-energy duo will play a free show tonight at Ska Brewing Co. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Split Livers

Wayne Gottstine of Split Lip Rayfield and Danny Barnes of the Bad Livers have joined to create the Split Livers. The high-energy duo will play a free show tonight at Ska Brewing Co.

Great musical minds tend to think alike. There are musicians everywhere doing the same folk thing, the same bluegrass thing, the same country thing or the same rock thing. Then, there are the jam bands who try to lump all those things together.

But it could be argued that until recently, few acoustic musicians were showing their true roots and allowing the punk and metal of their youth to pervade their own brands of country and bluegrass. So it was for a couple of now-40-somethings who grew up listening to everything, then attempted to play everything.

In Austin, Texas, there was Danny Barnes of the Bad Livers, a trio that played punk covers, odd shuffles, rock and old-time on traditional bluegrass instruments.

About 546 miles to the north – somewhere in Kansas – Wayne Gottstine left his death-country outfit Scroat Belly to join the acoustic rock band Split Lip Rayfield. Split Lip Rayfield got going right about the time the Bad Livers were slowing down.

The band maintains an impressive touring schedule. Even in decline, the Bad Livers continues to pick up new fans as people dig into Barnes’ growing catalog. They have had the opportunity to do so as fate has brought Barnes and Gottstine together, logically billed as the Split Livers.

The pairing of Barnes and Gottstine is a punk-acoustic music geek’s dream. The two songwriters first came together after backing Jeff Austin of the Yonder Mountain String Band. They’re lyrically similar; stories of broken hearts,the down and out, cruel cities, cheating spouses and urban ruin are typical fare in their catalogs. The Split Livers will play at Ska Brewing Co. tonight.

It’s a free show sponsored by KDUR and Durango Acoustic Music. Barnes will play banjo and Gottstine guitar, and they’ll dip into each other’s deep and growing song books.

Barnes is enjoying the new collaboration. Heis on tour with a like-minded friend, and touring as a duo takes away much of the drama of touring with a full band. It’s simple.

“We’re similar in age, and we have similarities in writing songs for our bands,” Barnes last week from his home in the Pacific Northwest. “We’re interested in acoustic music, punk rock, art and different types of things. So we have a good time riding in the car together and talking. The duet thing is cool because you can play both people’s music, and it’s green. The environmental impact is pretty light with only two guys.”

It has also allowed for Barnes to become a fan of Gottstine’s and Split Lip Rayfield’s work.

“I was ignorant of their zing. He’s got a lot of great songs, one after the other after the other,” Barnes said.

The two finally recorded together during practice times earlier in this summer. Those recordings are available, but only at shows and only on cassette. Barnes is an analog audiophile, releasing --through his label “Minner Bucket.”

The Split Livers’ cassette is a 90-minute release; 12 songs of Bad Livers and Split Lip Rayfield songs, along with unreleased filler from both artists to fill out the cassettes.

Barne’s nongenre-specific take on his output of work is solely an attempt to put his own twist on country and bluegrass, the music he grew up with.

After learning banjo at age 10, then veering off to punk and rock as he got older, he has maintained an approach that allows him to apply that influence.

“I feel like what’s important is to do something with the music I grew up with. I realized I had my own set of parameters and interests,” Barnes said. “I thought it would make more of an interesting approach to come up with my own take on all that stuff.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.