Tim Barry’s voice is like pouring rich, well-aged whiskey into your soul. Anyone who knows hardcore heroes Avail (and I have to accept that only tends to be people who’ve seen a fair few shows in their time) will know how wonderfully he paints a picture in your mind of the scenes and characters in his hometown of Richmond and the wider state of Virginia, and how his passion and love for his community, warts and all, comes through so well.
This has also always translated wonderfully well into his solo material and on ‘Lost and Rootless’, his fifth studio full length, it’s still very much the case. Barry has made a point of how on this album he has tried to make it as rootsy and stripped down as possible without too much assistance from electricity and about as far away from pro-tools as possible.
He was once described by one of his father’s friends as “old-timey in a modern way” and I don’t think there could be a better phrase to sum up his sound. It’s country-fried acoustic folk rock with a punk rock heart pumping the blood through its veins. When second track ‘The James’ hits your ears you’ll swear for a moment that Barry is channelling Cash himself as he sounds eerily like him, but it feels unintentional and honest, like an unconscious and touching tribute.
‘Poppa’s Porch’ is a track about a community coming together to overcome poverty and reaching a hand to help each other out. It comes from a place of understanding and tolerance and giving people a second chance – the kind of attitude that it feels like the world is sorely lacking at the moment. Barry’s music often can paint a darker picture too – he sings about what he sees and tells the truth. As Barry put it himself, “That’s what it’s about: drugs, gun and family. I’m not sure the average fan of Willy Nelson would like it but that’s what happens in the state of Virginia.”
Regardless of the context, Barry has a way of adding warmth to whatever subject he chooses, and so when he sings about his love for his wife and daughter, and looking forward to growing old together and still getting drunk and having a wild time while they’re doing it, it puts a massive smile across your face. There’s not the tiniest hint of corniness to this kind of romance, just the truth of what real love means to anyone who knows it.
If you’re already familiar with Tim Barry and his previous work then the chances are you’ll be picking this one up anyway on name alone. But for the uninitiated, you may as well start here because this is a damn fine album from one of the most respected and underrated musicians in contemporary punk rock. Not that he gives the slightest hoot about fame, but go buy this and earn the guy some damn recognition!
‘Lost and Rootless’ by Tim Barry is out now Chunksaah Records.
Words by Alex Phelan (@listen_to_alex)