New Release ‘Prairieography’ Reviewed
First Australian Tour
Del Barber is a highly regarded young Canadian folk, Americana and alt-country singer-songwriter, whose work has been Juno-nominated (the highest music recognition in Canada). He grew up in the Canadian Prairies and his new release Prairieography seems born out of a love for his home, its people and their stories. It is an engrossing album and he will be touring Australia for the first time very soon.
This is the first instalment on this exciting Canadian songwriter – an album review and tour dates. Soon I’ll be publishing a second part – a Q and A and repeating his tour dates.
I highly recommend buying Prairieography or seeing him live during his Australian tour, or better still, do both!
Barber sings from the heart about his roots, telling tales from the road, and offering incredibly personal and sincere observations of the world around him. Although this is Barber’s fourth album, it’s my first exposure to him. I have played this over and over, never tiring of its razor-like clarity of thought and sound. It reminds me in some ways of the Steve Earle debut Guitar Town with its supreme production, catchy hooks and arrangements.
“Living With A Long Way To Go” typifies his vision with a strong guitar riff and old country vocals. But the strength of the storytelling is the key here and “Farewell, God Bless You, Goodbye” is a beauty, with its tale of a young man trying to escape the clamour of the city – guitar, accordion and pedal steel combining beautifully with the heartfelt lyrics. “Walking In A Straight Line” chronicles a trip to the Yukon from Winnipeg via the Rockies and shows his eye and ear for a good line and melody. There are nicely-delivered lyrics with Barber’s stand-out voice which was made for alt. country.
“Arianna” is a slow, deliberate tune while “Country Girl” is more up-beat in tempo and playful, fit for a crowded honky tonk. In “Peter and Jenny Lee”, Barber observes the characters’ strong feelings about God and church. “Big Smoke” is a highlight, finger picking and Del’s voice in command as the keyboards start to swell adding body to proceedings, drums join the congregation and a news broadcast voice-over. Here’s a live version of “Big Smoke” at Music City Roots in Franklin TN.
“Yellowhead Road” is about a young marriage, the difficulties in making a living which ultimately leads to trouble with the Mounties. “The Wind and The Wire” contains a gentle treatment for a grand theme, and has a delightful outro. “The Sparrow and The Crow” reflect on ‘those get togethers where all those sparrows turn into black crows’.
The tone is lightened with “All That It Takes” is a celebratory number, has a Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band keyboard feel within a three-chord structure. “Tell Me Where To Start” is a simple, warm finger picking number:
‘I know this is a cold world,
but I’ve got a warm heart,
If you need a friend,
tell me where to start’
If you haven’t heard enough good music already, Barber closes proceedings on this talented, expansive collection of fourteen songs with the memorable “White Lines and Tail lights”, an epic love story of a highly anticipated return to a loved one during a long haul home.
Recorded at Empire Recording in Winnipeg, Prairieography is blanketed in warm, subtle textures and true-to-life imperfections. The rhythm section was captured live to analogue tape and uses audio sounds from combines and augers. The album was produced by Barber and his trusted steel player Bill Western.
Prairieography was released earlier this year through True North Records and is available in Australia through Planet MGM.
With his latest album, the Canadian performer is keenly anticipating his debut tour to Australia and will be performing headline shows in Melbourne and Sydney, before undertaking an extensive Festival of Small Halls tour (with the delightful Mae Trio) throughout regional Queensland, as well as performing at both the Mullum Music and Woodford Folk Festivals.
DEL BARBER TOUR DATES
Wednesday November 19
The Melbourne Folk Club
With C.R. Avery
Bella Union, Level 1 Trades Hall
Corner Lygon + Victoria Sts, Carlton
$18 + bf members / $20 + bf non-members
$23 / $25 door sales
Thursday November 20
Brighton Up Bar
With Fanny Lumsden
1/77 Oxford St Darlinghurst
Ph: 02 9361 3379
Tickets $15 /$20 door sales
November 22 – 23
Mullum Music Festival QLD
November 28 – December 21
Festival of Small Halls
December 27 – January 01
Woodford Folk Festival QLD