Songwriters like John Prine & Townes van Zandt easily get my attention. Storytellers with edgy humor, equal parts sugar & salt. I respect artists who go the extra mile & create something rather than just produce it.
Manitoba/Canadian Del Barber’s 1st track “Dancing in the Living Room,” from his Sept. 20 release Easy Keeper (Independent) is an 11-track LP with a hefty portion of a young John Prine with a Townes van Zandt vocal approach. Not much van Zandt twang though but the lead guitar takes care of that.
“Patient Man,” with Gram Parsons crossed with Randy Newman offers a soulful melody biscuit with an Americana swirl. Del Barber has a talent for tales told with fluid lyrics.
Del plays acoustic; Bill Western (pedal steel); Grant Siemens (lead guitar); Geoff Hilhorst (piano & organ); Jeremy Rusu (accordion); Bernie Thiessen (bass); Ivan Burkes (drums); Haley Carr & Andrinna Turenne (vocals).
Del’s “Everyday Life” is a pleasing John Prine turn. This is no imitation – it’s a respectful hat tip to a great songwriter whether Del’s aware or not. Not many people write the way John Prine does. The song is potent, poignant, & sung with all the sincerity of an artist who loves what he does. It comes through the Grant Siemens/Del Barber production.
“Louise,” has a haunting retro-country type excellent 60’s lead guitar tone. A steady one-two beat reminiscent of the late Johnny Bond or Johnny Horton. Del continues with the Prine-Parsons lyric structure. Vocals are pure prairie country & this is what sets him apart from others marginally. Does Del need to be more aggressive? No. Does his voice need a more signature sound? Nah. Del has a voice that’s rich country tradition — Napoleon brandy on vanilla ice cream.
The van Zandt edge runs generously in the currents of Del’s “Leads You Home,” & “Juanita.” Both, appealing tunes. That’s an adept singer with a charged band plugged into good material.
So, from Prine, van Zandt to Horton & Bond, “Lucky Prairie Stars,” exemplifies Del’s penchant for performing in a Steve Earle mindset. This is effective. Del’s tight ensemble is like a latter-day Bob Dylan band.
Del has a good solid-body of folk-country balladry. As depicted in “Blood on the Sand,” & “No Easy Way Out.”
“Blood,” plods but the way he tells the tale its campfire & saloon perfect. “No Easy,” has a soulful groove – pulled from the same soil as Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark & J.J. Cale.
It’s not always about flamboyancy. Exuberant beats with chiming guitars & gnarly teeth. Good songwriting is a craft – Del Barber – mastered this genre. Available at Bandcamp & Del’s website: https://delbarber.com/