Matthew Barber / True Believer (Outside Music) and some true trivia
Canadian singer-songwriter Matthew Barber’s Ghost Notes was one of my favorite discs of 2009. I wasn’t the only one to appreciate Matt’s singing and songwriting. Ghost Notes was nominated for a Juno award as best “Roots & Traditional Album”. With True Believer (Outside Music) Barber stakes his claim as one of the best singer and songwriters working today: north or south of the border. You can check out several new tracks from True Believer and “Easily Bruised” from Ghost Notes on Matthew’s MySpace page.
For 2010’s True Believer Matthew has written and recorded ten mostly acoustic tracks on which he provides vocals, guitar, piano and percussion while producer Howie Beck adds drums and bass. Special guests including Dean Drouillard (electric guitar), Paul Mathew (upright bass), Jesse O’Brien (piano) and Matt’s sister Jill Barber (vocals) flesh out the sound. His songs often deal with matters of the heart but in the grand folk tradition he isn’t afraid to throw a song or two of social commentary into the mix. As good as the band is this is truly a singer-songwriter album. I caught Matthew Barber’s solo set at “The Mill” in Carrboro, NC last spring and his clear voice, lyrical skills and acoustic guitar playing shine in an intimate small club setting. He played most of “Ghost Notes”, a few older tracks of his I wasn’t familiar and an unexpected cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Out Of My Mind”. I went home and dug out my copy and rediscovered the song thanks to Matthew’s cover!
Outstanding tracks from True Believer include:
“Feel My Love”: a love song, a pop song, a lust song.
“Insanity or Death”: bass and Graceland guitar (Simon’s not Presley’s) contrast perfectly with the dark questioning lyrics:
“I’ve been thinking about religion, I’ve been wondering where it went”
“I don’t know if we know who we are anymore but we act like we do and that’s why we’re fighting wars.”
“Lonesome Feeling”: country-flavored tune complete with a slapping bass line that honors both Hank Williams and Presley. Matt rewrites and reworks the iconic line “I’m so lonesome _ ____ __ to “I’m so lonesome all the time”.
“Hawks on the Highway”: Matthew rocks an ode to cheap gas and the roadtrip. “Radio stations come and go” but there are “Hawks on the highway, doves in the ditch”. The mythic road trip comes to its end.
Fans of the Everly Brothers, Josh Ritter and Leonard Cohen will dig both True Believer and Ghost Notes .
I’d honestly have a hard time recommending one of these excellent folk-rock discs over the other.
Matthew was nice enough to answer a few questions by email:
HB: Where is the new disc available?
MB: The cd is available in stores across Canada, and by mail-order through www.maplemusic.com or www.outside-music.com, and the album is available digitally worldwide through itunes and other online retailers.
HB: Could you share some of your musical influences? Canadian? U.S?
MB: My biggest songwriting influences are (among many others) Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Tom Petty, Hank Williams, Lennon/McCartney, Paul Simon, Brendan Benson, Joel Plaskett and Ron Sexsmith.
HB: Could you mention a few covers that you’ve done live?
MB: There have been many over the years. Some of my favourites include Don’t Do It (The Band/Otis Redding), Won’t Back Down (Petty), Bird On A Wire (Leonard Cohen), Wicked Game (Chris Isaak).
HB: Do you have plans to tour in support of True Believer?
MB: I’m covering most of Canada in March, April and May of this year, with plans to get back down to the US and over to Australia later in the year.
HB: Is there a weirdest gig?
MB: I had a gig on September 11th, 2001 that for some reason was not cancelled. Everyone was in shock and it was a very strange and somber night.
HB: Favorite road food?
MB: My favourite road-side-truck-stop snack would have to be Sesame Snaps.
HB: Would you have missed a gig to watch Canada win the Gold in hockey?
MB: No one in Canada would schedule a gig at the same time so it wouldn’t be an issue!
HB: Thanks Matt. I hope your tour brings you through NC again this year!