Tim Barry - 28th & Stonewall
Record Label: Suburban Home Records
Release Date: January 26, 2010
Tim Barry doesn't have to pander anything to us, really. He's spent years on the road with his legendary punk band Avail, which dominated the east coast punk scene in the in the 90s and into the new millennium, releasing nine records from 1992 to 2002, a turnover rate that most bands now only dream about. Barry has definitely paid his dues. One would think after years in Avail, Barry would stop playing music and spend his time hopping trains (his favorite past-time) and forget about any scene politics that he would have to worry about, yet he chooses to keep releasing records. His latest, 28th and Stonewall, is his sixth in six years and fourth for Suburban Home Records.
Barry plays a brand of folk-punk and Americana that isn't unlike his peers like Chuck Ragan (ex-Hot Water Music), Chad Price (ex-ALL) and Ben Nichols (Lucero). Although Ragan gets his cues more from bluegrass at times, Barry follows a more folk tradition. Case in point is “Prosser’s Gabriel”, the best track on the record. Barry sings a story over an acoustic guitar of a literate blacksmith slave Gabriel Prosser, who planned a foiled slave rebellion in Barry’s hometown of Richmond. The song is a history lesson in itself and Barry keeps you enthralled by describing Prosser’s history, making Prosser’s rebellion not just a story of Richmond’s dark past, but a national one. It is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, where Dylan tells of a murdered black maid.
That is not to say that Barry has no ties to his punk roots anymore. Even though his roots might not be present in his music, they are present in his attitude. The opener “Thing of the Past” rails against mainstream career and social culture as he advises that “living’s better when taking chances constantly” behind a chicken-picked electric guitar and lively country rhythm-section. The other faster tracks on the record (“Downtown VCU”, “Will Travel” and “Bus Driver”) are fun, rowdy songs but Barry’s more effective with his more intimate numbers, like the forlorn “Bozeman” and brass tinged “With Ease I Leave”. It is Barry’s more somber songs that pack the real punch when he tells the stories of Richmond, loneliness and want, rather than his light-hearted tales from tour (“Bus Driver”).
Overall, Tim Barry is easily making a name for himself in this generation like he did with Avail in the 90s, this time he’s just doing it with an acoustic twang. Fans of the genre will enjoy the record but new listeners will be captivated by his storytelling and massive amount of heart. He calls upon the attitude of punk rock and the sound of folk to meld his music and it is these cues from these genres that make Barry’s songs timeless.