- Doctor Sailor, Running Over the Road
I wonder how many records were made because someone went west to find better fishing? I'm going to go out on a limb and say one. There's an album that happened specifically because a fisherman, who is also an indie-rock musician, felt like hunting the icy waters off the Alaskan coast.
(Note to anyone thinking of sending me a Jimmy Buffett record: 1. Gross. 2. Even if he did go fishing in Alaska and wrote a song called "King Crabs Got Me Down," it doesn't count. Don't @ me.)
That musician is Burlington's Tristan Baribeau. Way back in 2013, the songwriter, who also played with indie rockers Villanelles, made the trek out west in search of a better haul. Between his fishing trips and visits home, Baribeau recorded seven songs chronicling his various experiences, mishaps and oscillating emotions.
Such was his level of transience at the time that at some point Baribeau seemingly forgot Running Over the Road existed.
"Life happens," he explains on the rediscovered album's Bandcamp page. "Money and time run out. Things change. People change."
What doesn't change is the appeal of a talented songwriter with a bruised heart, traveling and singing about the rough times. With his solo project Doctor Sailor, Baribeau wears that hat well.
The record starts off with the title track, a slice of pop-infused indie rock that breezes by like an intriguing stranger on a bike. Maybe it's that earworm refrain of "la la la la la" that Baribeau sings, but "Running Over the Road" conveys just a hint of British psychedelic tendencies — an amuse-bouche of weird that peeks out from his robust pop sensibilities.
That push/pull tension of Baribeau's songs, the bobbing and weaving between sugary pop and his darker influences, creates its own kind of dynamism. Instead of using big guitars or sudden drum breaks to shift mood, he'll let a playful jazz progression, such as the one that starts "Either Way," creep into a lush, new-wave-leaning chorus. "Baby, love always finds a way," Baribeau sings, the melody all but floating over the sound. Tabi Trahan adds sumptuous harmonies throughout the song.
A kind of detached awe hangs over many of the tracks on Running Over the Road. It manifests in the slow burn and yearn of "Color of Wine," as Baribeau sings, "We worry about things like the color of wine / but I just don't give a shit most of the time / 'Cause it's a long way down / Falling at the speed of sound."
The sensation is something many travelers will recognize. There's a specific kind of feeling in finding yourself in strange lands and needing to keep your shit together, particularly in times of trouble. "Columbia River Blues" has the same vibe — that of a stiff upper lip while navigating the unknown. It lends the record an air of adventure.
For an album recorded and forgotten about more than seven years ago, Running Over the Road has thematic fidelity, strong songwriting and overall great sounds. Baribeau recorded most of it himself but handed it over to Eric Maier at Future Fields to mix and master. The result is a record full of longing, discovery and, most importantly, killer songs.
Download Running Over the Road at doctorsailor.bandcamp.com.