I don’t normally like country music, but I do make a few exceptions. Kevin Barr is definitely one.
Best known as the lead singer of the celebrated Undertakin’ Daddies, Barr is a frequent Whitewater Wednesday jammer. With his hair flying when he’s in the swing of it, he plays traditional country songs with love and an infectious enthusiasm that can convert even the most die-hard country music hater.
On Lost and Found, his first solo CD, he accomplishes just that.
If the Undertakin’ Daddies is music to play while the party is in full swing, this CD is for the next morning. With some exceptions, such as Barr’s uptempo original, “Patches on My Jeans”, the mood of the CD is quieter and more intimate than the wild bluegrass efforts of the ‘Daddies.
But it’s that intimacy that makes this album more charming and enjoyable than those earlier works.
Selected from songs learned from his father, uncles and friends around kitchen tables, as well as a huge repertoire of country standards, the album mixes covers with four original tunes written or co-written by Barr himself.
Barr’s quiet, understated approach is what makes this album work. A standout example is “Stop this Foolin’ ‘Round”—with its soft harmony vocals and whistling solo, the song comes on tenderly, with an Everly Brothers feel.
Barr’s vocals may be more gentle, but they’re still no less expressive than fans have come to expect, especially on his cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley”, a ballad about a young woman who tries and fails to make a new life for herself. With Tim Jeffery’s dobro and Chris Sandvoss’s fiddle, Barr’s voice effortlessly captures the emotion of this tale of hard-living.
This hard-living theme comes up several times in Barr’s song selections. With other tracks, including covers of Roy Payne’s “If You Want to be Crazy”, Paul Cotton’s “All Alone Together” and the Barr-penned “Sailin’ Away”, the versatile singer can make the hard times and loneliness feel beautiful. With “Patches on My Jeans”, being down and out has never sounded so upbeat.
While the arrangements are sparse, with only a couple of musicians at a time joining Barr’s guitar and vocal, this helps focus the listener on lyrics and the emotion of each song. Carlos Del Junco’s harmonica—wild on “Patches on My Jeans” but subdued on “Daisy a Day”—help carry the songs without ever overpowering them.
So, the next time you’re coming down while clearing away the bottles on a Sunday morning, put this CD on and listen to Barr, sitting at your kitchen table, singing his favourite country songs … even if you’re not a country fan … especially if you’re not.
Kevin Barr’s Lost and Found is available in stores around Whitehorse and from his website www.kevinbarrmusic.com.