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WKMS Meets The Sensational Barnes Brothers, Featured Lowertown Arts & Music Festival Gospel and Soul Duo

 The Sensational Barnes Brothers perform at the Lowertown Arts and Music Festival on Saturday, May 13, at 8:30 pm.
Sensational Barnes Brothers
Yeiser Art Center
The Sensational Barnes Brothers perform at the Lowertown Arts and Music Festival on Saturday, May 13, at 8:30 pm.

Closing out the Yeiser Art Center's annual Lowertown Arts & Music Festival in Paducah's historic Lowertown Arts District is a family duo, The Sensational Barnes Brothers. Austin Carter speaks to Chris and Courtney Barnes about their musical upbringing, recording process, and what listeners can expect at their Lowertown performance.

"Growing up in a musical family, it was music all the time," Chris explains. "Even in school, because we were educated at a private school, and music was the foundation of what we did there. There was always music playing at home. Mom and Dad were always singing at weddings and different banquets and events around town. There was always music going on. We would sing together, listen to the radio, loud sing in the car, sing as we travel. Just music."

Chris and Courtney's mother performed with Ray Charles before they were born. They say their parents welcomed virtually all kinds of music as they developed their own musical tastes, including everything from classical music to contemporary artists like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. "Everything was accepted," Chris says. "They pushed us and the gift that they knew we had."

"Growing up being involved in choir, plays, theatre, acting — [gave us] opportunities to sing with different artists or local artists to where we were able to continue to hone our skills. It's a continuation of evolving and learning. We're both drummers, singers, writers, all that," Chris continues. "I think what people get when we perform is all of our experience from the years growing up. We're just trying to continue to mold our sound into what people expect from us and what we give off."

Nobody's Fault But My Own is the latest release by the duo, but Chris says they are hoping to release a new record at the beginning of 2024. He says their recording process "depends on how it happens or how it flows out. Right now, we're currently [working on] a more direct, edgy approach — not too much production for that sound. We have another sound that's a bit more produced, more modern contemporary sound. We approach it at all facets, trying to stay open to create the best sound. Whatever works."

Chris says that the duo's Lowertown set will feature a six-piece band. "That's a rhythm section, myself and Courtney. We'll be jamming. We're up there grooving, having a good time, trying to connect with the people. Just a fun, good time. Our presentation is fun."

"If you open yourself, you'll feel something. We're reaching for your spirits. We're reaching for your souls in a way that one might not experience every weekend. Some people might not go to church every weekend, so we get to spread a message of love, joy, healing, peace, and we try to put that in our performance."

The Sensational Barnes Brothers will perform at LTAMF on Saturday, May 13, at 8:30 pm. For more information on the Sensational Barnes Brothers, visit their website.

Visit the Yeiser Art Center's website for more information on the Lowertown Arts & Music Festival.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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