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Sunday, September 17, 2017

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 17, 2017
Scott Foley, perennially tardy purveyor of dust

I don't know that my own father ever offered me any fatherly advice.  He has lived an exemplary life, though he never ever sat me down and steered me straight.  Sure, there was the time he took away the TV Guide I was reading and quietly insisted I study my Biology instead.  And he drop-kicked a McDonalds hamburger after I complained that it featured the wrong condiments ...  As a father who will never pass up the opportunity to dispense fatherly advice like a Pez dispenser on overload, I wonder how my kids will process their childhood.  Mine was idyllic - sheltered but blessedly so.  I grew up knowing the world extended beyond the tree shaded boundaries of our space, but in no hurry to explore those hinterlands.

Seems punk-in-recovery Tim Barry is taking stock of his own choices as a father on his eighth solo project, High on 95.  Never one to waste unnecessary time applying studio polish to his work, Barry's new collection is direct, sincere and satisfying.

Barry offers on "Slow Down":  There comes a time to stay home and watch the rain.  This mid-life inventory necessarily involves an assessment of our own misspent youth, as well as a take on the state-of-the-world.  As we raise our own kids, we can't help but compare their opportunities and challenges with our own.  While Barry spends more than his share of time crisscrossing the country, the theme of home carries throughout these new songs.  "Little Eden" is a moving acoustic reflection: Little Eden / I find myself in the same chair on the same porch time and time again. / I'm a true believer that we are all friends / And all that falls, we can rebuild again.  "Back Home" enhances his rough hewn guitar with violin from Barry's sister Caitlin Hunt.  It's a tune that acknowledges both the comfort of the familiar and the inescapable reality of restlessness.

Much of High on 95 takes this bare-bones approach to arrangement, recognizing that there is great power and even catharsis in Tim Barry's gruff vocal and workmanlike acoustic strings.  Songs like "O & Dp" opt for more of a front porch jam sound, adding handclaps, dobro and acoustic bass.  The loose folk number also reveals the writer's ability to take himself less seriously:  I do a lot of walking and thinking / It never really makes much sense. / If you're wanting to talk / You'll have to wait until I'm done thinking.  "Gumshoe Andy" is one of the record's fullest sounding numbers, featuring some rewarding dobro behind Barry's strumming.  Even with some studio company, the appeal can be traced back to the simple elements of voice and story.

The collection's title track adds electric guitar and keys for an anthemic spirit, a fight song:  The older I get, the less I need / The less I keep, the less I leave.  It's a glimpse of what might be possible were Barry interested in expanding his sound a bit.  But that extra noise would add little to "Running Never Tamed Me", the record's musical and emotional high point:  I run when I am angry / Drink when I get sad / Running never tamed me, lord / And drinking turned out bad.  Even if Barry's children might be too young yet to absorb the life learned messages imparted by their father, it seems pretty certain that his girls are foremost in his mind as he imparts this wisdom.

Throughout High on 95, Barry demonstrates the ability to maintain an earnest hope while being perennially honest about the gathering gloom.  He has become a sort of ringleader for his fans, eschewing big band studio trickery for a straightforward live-to-tape approach, honoring listeners through a dedication to purity and truth.  

- Blank Range, "Opening Band" Marooned With the Treasure  (Sturdy Girls, 17)
- J Roddy Walston, "Numbers" Destroyers of the Soft Life  (ATO, 17)
- Lilly Hiatt, "Trinity Lane" Trinity Lane  (New West, 17)
- Son Volt, "Looking at the World Through a Windshield" Retrospective: 1995-2000  (Warner, 05)
- The Americans, "Nevada" I'll Be Yours  (Loose, 17)  D
- David Ramirez, "Good Heart" We're Not Going Anywhere  (Sweetworld, 17)
- Dead Man Winter, "Careful I Think It's Loaded" Careful It's Loaded  (GNDWire, 17)
- Erin Enderlin, "Ain't It Just Like a Cowboy" Whiskeytown Crier  (Blue Slate, 17)
- Giant Sand, "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" Ballad of a Thin Line Man  (Fire, 86)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "When the Wall Comes Down" Hallelujah Anyhow  (Merge, 17)
- Deer Tick, "Card House" Deer Tick Vol. 1  (Partisan, 17)
- Margo Price, "A Little Pain" All American Made  (Third Man, 17)  D
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Housefire" Long Way From Your Heart  (Bossier City, 17)
- Legendary Shack Shakers, "Branding Iron" After You've Gone  (Last Chance, 17)
- Yawpers, "Linen For the Orphan" Boy in a Well  (Bloodshot, 17)  C
- Whitney Rose, "Better To My Baby" Rule 62  (Six Shooter, 17)
- Lucinda Williams, "Sidewalks of the City" This Sweet Old World  (Hwy 20, 17)
- David Rawlings, "Good God a Woman" Poor David's Almanack  (Acony, 17)
- White Buffalo, "The Observatory" Darkest Darks Lightest Lights  (Unison, 17)
- Suzanne Santo, "Blood on Your Knees" Ruby Red  (Soozanto, 17)
- JD McPherson, "Crying's Just a Thing You Do" Undivided Heart & Soul  (New West, 17)
- Lee Ann Womack, "All the Trouble" The Lonely the Lonesome and the Gone  (ATO, 17)
- Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Picture of a Man" Youth Detention  (Don Giovani, 17)
- Danny & the Champions of the World, "Consider Me" Brilliant Light  (Loose, 17)
- Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton, "The Last" Wildflower Blues  (Holland/Parton, 17)
- Tim Barry, "High on 95" High on 95  (Chunksaah, 17)  D
- Blitzen Trapper, "Rebel" Wild & Reckless  (LKC, 17)  D
- Dori Freeman, "If I Could Make You My Own" Letters Never Read  (Dori, 17)  D
- Meat Purveyors, "Rose Colored Glasses" Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse  (Bloodshot, 06)
- Langhorne Slim, "Zombie" Lost at Last Vol. 1  (Dualtone, 17)  D

So with the keys to the wagon and a full tank of pride / Sipping battery acid and gin / Smoking pre-rolled Virginias to cover the grass / Up in knots that I tied myself in  - William the Conqueror

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