Barling and Collins Press

C-Ville review of New World Odor by Andrew Cedermark
Issue #22.16 4/20/10-4/26/10

Duo with a pair

Rarely have members of history's great duos — Thelma and Louise, Simon and Garfunkel, Williams and Sonoma — used each other as an excuse to be so bawdy as guitarist Stephen Barling and cellist Brandon Collins. On their new full-length, New World Odor, Barling and Collins casts a demented eye toward silly topics: e-mail spam, staying up all night and a bunch of other stuff that can't be mentioned in this family-friendly paper.

It's the deadpan delivery that makes their new record an undeniably fun listen. Barling sounds like a foul-mouthed Loudon Wainwright who never gets sentimental, sings kind of like the guy from Lit, hasn't left town in far too long.

And they have indeed been here for a long time: Barling used to write under the moniker Cripsy Duck for this paper; they've played weekly at Miller's for six years; and together they backed former Tokyo Rose owner Atsushi Miura in his band, the Dirty Round Eyes.

While the songs on the duo's follow-up to 2004's Puberty and Justice for All might not reach the heights of Miura's "I Hate Charlottesville," there are plenty of local shout-outs and gripes to be enjoyed on the hour-long record. On "Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestler" (Go Punctuator!), "The ref says she's going to need more than looks, so I bought his ass off with a stack of CLAW bucks."

Barling sings on "Nascar People Rule the World" that the aforementioned "keep drinking when they hurl," and "get all the pretty girls" — by the time "best" appears in this verse, the question for the next is not "if" but "how" Barling will rhyme it with "breast." Listening to music hasn't made me so uncomfortable since I first heard "Date Rape" by Sublime.

But it's funny, often virtuosic and totally local. There's a full hour of the stuff on this disc. What more could you want?

-Andrew Cedermark


Here's a fun bit by Barling in the New River Voice preceding our Floyd Fest 8 appearances.


Here's the May 2009 C-Ville article where Barling and Collins' "American as Fuck" was chosen as #2 all-time "must hear" local song.
Forty-five songs that every Charlottesville music fan should know
NOTE: B & C are also 2/3 of Atsushi Miura's band, the Dirty Round Eyes, in the #1 slot.


C-VILLE Weekly July 27, 2004
Puberty and Justice for All
reviewed by Ben Sellers

Who knows how many Sunday nights people have spent at Stephen Barling and Brandon Collins' weekly Miller's gigs asking, "Did they just say what I think they said?" Like a local, folk-oriented Tenacious D, the guitar-and-cello duo's catalog of songs straight out of a seventh-grade locker room has generated a cult-like following of dirty-minded barflies. With the long-awaited release of their first studio CD, B.C. fans finally have the chance to learn the words to familiar numbers like "Uncle Jerry's Nasty Granny" and the live-show rarity "American As Fuck," a country ballad that puts Toby Keith's patriotism to shame.

The pair leaves no taboo unturned on the new CD, covering topics from pot-smoking Republican senators in "Cry Fourth Amendment" to... more than you never wanted to know about Downtown figure/harmonica player Sidney Tapscott in "Sid." On other songs like "Beaver" (which barely mentions the titular cuddly, buck-toothed mammals), it may be hard to figure out what the topic is.

Though the squeamish may be advised to keep away from the CD, it does have its redeeming moments. A vast body of experience and musical knowledge is evident in the duo's well-woven vocal harmonies and playful instrumentation. Additionally, Barling, a former C-VILLE writer, reveals a natural aptitude for the spoken word, stringing together consistently clever rhymes and turns of phrase that convey poignant emotion in the vitriolic "Jackal of Love" and the tender "Whatever You Want."


The Hook - December 11, 2003
Too cool: BC strums, plucks, wows!
B.C. at Miller's
Sunday, December 9, 2003

by Mark Grabowski

It's always amusing when I talk to hip people, the kind who are in on every inside joke, know all the latest trends and bands, and are virtual fashion plates, speak of their ignorance of the local cello-pop duo known as BC. I speak of my bewilderment because, for me at least, the band easily sits near the apex of my top -five bands in Charlottesville list, which is currently affixed by jack-knife to the back of my closet door (a bizarre ballpark giveaway night).

For the past few years the group has been performing at Tokyo Rose Tuesdays, and Miller's Sundays, keeping this constant schedule with a fan base composed of mostly constant members. BC at Miller's Sunday nights also happen to coincide with that establishment's $2 Bourbon and Coke spectacular, so most weeks, if I'm fit and up for a bit of chaff from acquaintances/BC fans, I can be found at that cozy establishment wiling away the hours before the new week.

Formed in 1996, the acoustic duo composed of Brandon Collins on cello and Stephen Barling on acoustic guitar and vocals, has built up quite a following of ridiculously devoted fans with a gigantic catalog of material, running the gamut from simple pop tunes with erudite and cutting lyrics to things a bit more helter-skelter (their song "American As Fuck" springs to mind).

Collins attended CHS and was a member of that institution's classical music program; before BC he played keys in Matthew Willner's original Full Flavor project. Barling came to Charlottesville in '85 to study architecture and was the guitarist/singer for what he describes as a "ska power trio" in college (called The Cows).

The group performs mostly originals, more often than not witty ditties that can fool you into complacency with their impressive grasp of the pop, until you recognize exactly what Barling is singing. The first tune on Sunday was a fine example of this dichotomy, a tight little number on which plucked cello provides the bass line (or cello line, to be exact), skating around Barling's guitar pluckings as he sings, "That's right, I'm looking at your girlfriend / That's right she's looking at me too / That's right I'm looking at your girlfriend / And I think she's kinda hot for me."

The group's set is almost one highlight after another, and after you check them out a few times you begin to have your favorites­ I'm partial to their cover of the jazz tune, "If You're A Viper," and I think seven or eight others are some of the finest examples of succinct songwriting I've heard west of the swinging '60s ("Orrin Hatch, stay the fuck out of my ganja patch" and "Ain't no deeper forest / Ain't no wrong side of the hill" being two of their lyrical catch-phrases).

You've had two chances a week to see BC for a while now, and if you haven't taken advantage of those opportunities, you can't lay claim to the claim of cool.


C-VILLE Weekly July 22, 2003
B.C. at Miller's Sunday, July 13, 2003

by Matthew Hirst

If you have yet to catch longtime guitar and cello duo B.C. playing around town, you're missing out not only on a good thing but on one of Charlottesvile's worst kept secrets. Singer-guitarist Stephen Barling is a longtime gadabout of the local music scene, first as co-owner of an instrument shop and later as a contributor to Charlottsville's alt weeklies.

Barling and cellist Brandon Collins have played for several years under the name B.C. In a given week you might seee them play a regular Tuesday night gig upstairs at Tokyo Rose, some spot on the Corner or at Miller's on the Mall. But it takes more than being familiar faces on the scene to snag such regular gigs.

And while the portentous pairing of cello and acoustic guitar could easily make for the heavy-handed sentimentalism of some fatalist conceit by Billy Corgan, B.C. chooses to make music imbued with levity. Barling delivers the goods with an energietic air infused with ragtime and blues, his lyrics witty and glib, while Collins frenetically saws and plucks in agreement. On a recent evening at Miller's the duo showed itself to be capital-t Tight, as always.


C-VILLE Weekly December10, 2002
Atsushi Miura and the Dirty Round Eyes with B.C. Upstairs at Tokyo Rose Tuesday, December 3, 2002

by Frank Darrell

B.C. opened the gig to warm up Tokyo Rose from the 24-degree air that snuck in behind every new visitor. Despite using a P.A. system that was 10 years past its prime, B.C. did what they always do and played tightly crafted, witty songs filled with slight smirks of self-deprecation. As usual, they dismissed the notion that what they do is good and that people may actually enjoy it. Their set ended after a tasty rendition of 'Teen Queen,' an old fave among B.C, listeners; lending its way to Miura's entrance.

Besides being the hardest working man in Charlottesville, Miura also rocks out. It wasn't so much what he played, but how he played it. He worked the core from which all true performance begins: a no frills, rootsy expression of self. He wasn't afraid of making mistakes. His take-it-or-leave-it delivery was an example of how comfortable he was in his own skin. Soon, the Dirty Round Eyes (B.C. joined by the drumming wizardry of Josh Mustin) trickled in to back up Miura for a set that filled the room with rabid applause and several wide, toothy smiles.


From The Hook Oct. 24, 2002
B.C. at Tokyo Rose and the Virginian October 15 and 17, 2002

by Amy Briggs

Folksy, Bluesy, toe tappy duo

If you remember 1205 West Main Street or music reporting written under a certain fowl-based pseudonym, you know Stephen Barling.

The first, an ill-fated building that once housed the Main Street Guitar and Drum shop, was razed by Marriott Hotels in the late '90's. Stephen, a co-owner (and familiar face behind the counter), couldn't find another affordable address within campus walking distance. The customers were mostly student bands and musicians; after the lease ran out, the business was doomed. Today, the only undergrads trafficking that block are Honk-For-Living-Wagers.

Stephen resurfaced several years later, reviewing concerts for another weekly under the name Cripsy Duck. His noble attempts at anonymity were eventually abandoned. This is a small town, after all.

However, many people still don't know that he's been playing weekly gigs with his long-time friend and cellist Brandon Collins. Billed in the papers as B.C., the two have been described as 'ragtimey,' 'eclectic,' and 'irreverent.' They often experiment with folksy-bluesy structures, and always inject variation in their standards.

Stephen's lyrics are Costello clever, yet skip the misanthropic moping. No heart-breakers ever left him high and dry for long. At times, it almost seems as if his words seek out a natural melody of their own, one that follows the cadence of everyday conversation. It's fun and inspired stuff... at times rowdy and a little rough around the edges, like the shoulder-grabbing sing-alongs of the Replacements.

My favorite, 'Party Dress,' is a blusher of a number, with a foot-tapping chorus.

I saw B.C. Tuesday night, October 15, at Tokyo Rose, and then again briefly on Thursday, October 17, at the Virginian. Of the two establishments, Tokyo Rose seems to be the environment better-suited to their music.

People requested songs, regular fans showed, and applause could be expected after every song. At the Virginian, it was $2 draft night; if anybody had come to see the band, they tried very hard not to show it. Craning my neck over the roller coaster row of booths and tuning out the beertalk chatter (proportionally increasing in inanity and volume) gave me a headache.

I've concluded the duo either has a Vulcan mind connection or a well-rehearsed system of imperceptible cues. They're on-target, every time, together or in trade-off solos. Try catching B.C. early in the week. The experience is well worth it.


From C-Ville Weekly, August 2002
B.C. at Miller's, July 12

by Wildcat McSofty

It's the kind of place where you can get an eyeful of waitress and widening waistbands, not to mention a decent bourbon, for about 30 stress-free minutes until some muscle with a cigar sits next to you. Which turns out to coincide with the end of the first set, so perfect time to exit, we reckon. But for half that hour at least, there was a kind of 'Unplugged'/'Storytellers' microfilter sieving the gusty current of guitar-and-cellofication going on with the boys (there are two) from B.C.

That's Brandon Collins on the mellow cello and Stephen Barling (of C-VILLE fame, fans) on guitar and howl-as-she-blows lyrics. My frame of reference is tight enough that I mostly hear Pixies, Nirvana, maybe Bad Brains, in the compositions. That quiet, purring low-grade intro crashing into fervid, chaotic-melodic, yelling choruses. That is, such is the limited selection on the memory jukebox rising up in my head mid-laugh. (Pass the ashtray, not the cigarillos, my brother).

Mostly what I get out of the music, though, is a sheer joy of B.C. in connecting with the front rows of cheerful, wanna-love-this-brisk-night Boomer women and scattered other two-tops yulping and clapping loyally. Not to mention the waitresses.

That's 30 minutes of B.C. Better than a sit-com, and just as long.


2/4/01 Barling and Collins at Michael's Bistro

by Abe Wiseman

For years, musicians on the Corner have suffered the ignominies brought on by drunken children who could care less about the music being played near them. Granted, the vast majority of these musicians were doing their interpretation of some Jimmy Buffet or James Taylor song, so it was no great loss.

B.C. brings being ignored to an art form. For four years, they've been honing their original songs and their barbs on unsuspecting audiences on the Corner, most recently at Michael's Bistro on Sunday nights.

B.C. is Stephen Barling and Brandon Collins, guitar-vocals, cello-vocals respectively. The music is generally strong, and very moving at times. Brandon's cello is that usual C-ville mix of everything he ever heard plus that indefinable thing that great C-ville musicians seem to have. Barling's songwriting is sharp poor-boy-philosophy emphasised by a hodge-podge of American guitar styles, the end result being engaging, original music that makes you bop in place AND want to sing along.

Then, they start talking. Brandon will castigate some poor girl from Northern Virginia for not being attentive enough. Stephen eggs him on, and then absolves himself by acknowledging the fact that yes, Brandon is an asshole.

This is no act. You cannot fake two or three near brilliant tunes followed by three minutes of moronic patter.

They have a different name every Sunday-- the old Jethro Tull trick. The names this writer is familiar with are Dumpster Kitty, Fistful of Bliss and Vowel Movement, the moniker they took for 02/04. There was a brief display by the duo of what a vowel movement might be, a display I could've done without. But then they launched into another tune, so they were forgiven.

Going to hear these guys on a Sunday serves two purposes. It shows how two musicians can play good, lasting music in sympatico, and what active ignorance of the social graces can do to two young men. They are, at once, a shining example and a horrible warning.