Friday, April 8, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: MATTHEW BARBER & JILL BARBER - THE FAMILY ALBUM
It's no secret there's magic when family sings together, and here's more proof of that. The siblings bring out the best in each other, plus sound relaxed and fully enjoying the experience. That they waited to make the duo album makes the experience that much more special.
Before hearing the album, I probably would have had a hard time imagining what it might sound like, as the two have had somewhat different career paths. But now that the 11 cuts are here, it makes perfect sense, and is a fine mix of what they do, and what their common loves are.
The Barbers decided they wouldn't take this lightly, and instead each wrote new material for the set, plus they spent part of last year touring, and will again this summer. There's a lot of heart and sentiment in the originals, and that fits the family theme. Her One True Love is about fighting for that great love, to show what you're made of ("Your one true love, if you believe in that sort of thing, like I do"). His touching Grandpa Joe traces a family member and the mark he left, while realizing how much the next generations don't know about his life.
The covers chosen match those family themes, and keep an acoustic/folk vibe going. Don Williams' If I Needed You is handled gently, with calm harmonies, almost like a Christmas song. Neil Young's Comes A Time is also taken at about half-speed, a lovely version with piano, fiddle and mandolin, plus the Barber shop vocals.
The great surprise here is how deep the pair went for more inspired covers. The largely unheralded Bobby Charles (See You Later, Alligator) has his sleepy Southern theme I Must Be In A Good Place Now turned into a grand, close-harmony version. Even more obscure is a Gene MacLellan number, Song To A Young Seagull, here with bluegrass vibes. And Ian Tyson's Summer Wages isn't heard much these days, another smart choice.
This could have been a bunch of old favourite songs and obvious choices, made over a weekend, but the care and commitment really stands out, and I think it's the secret to why the album works so very well.