Thursday, February 20, 2014


Winnipeg's Barber has been one of the bright lights in the roots-folk world with his first three albums, taking influence from his Prairie roots, updating traditions by telling stories of the new reality of working lives these days.  His characters have a foot in the past with connections to the land and small towns, but deal with modern jobs and troubles too.  That continues here, but now he's closer than ever to actual country songs.  About half the cuts here put him in that ball park, although not the polished one of Top 40 country thankfully.  It's catchy stuff, with lots of pedal steel from co-producer Bill Western (what a name), without bringing in the rock production.  Name-dropping Prairie map points, we go from Qu'Appelle to Jasper, as he tells us "I've always had a hard time walking in a straight line."

There's a trade-off to be made as he gets away from folk lyrics, his strength, to the more down-home and upbeat stuff.  Barber tries to tread the fine line between simple, heartfelt numbers and corny lyrics.  We get the story of Peter And Jenny Lee, a love affair between the front desk clerk and the cleaner, which is just too sappy:  "She was rolly and polly and able/he hired her under the table".  Country Girl is so simplistic its inconsequential,  "Walkin' downtown with a country girl on my arm," over a bouncy beat.

But Barber shows his deft writing chops on the big city versus. small town upbringing, Big Smoke:  "We used to fly through the woods on the back of quarter horses," not surprisingly a reflective piece that sees him back on the roots side.  There's a lot more meat on the bones on that one, or Yellowhead Road, where a young man makes a drastic mistake, agreeing to smuggle drugs in his 18-wheeler.  I'm not somebody with a problem with country music, and love lots of it, but some of these tunes just seem dumbed down, which doesn't have to happen in country.

No comments:

Post a Comment