Del Barber - Almanac
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Almanac (Acronym Records, 2023)

Del Barber

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

The multi-decorated Canadian singer-songwriter Del Barber returns with his eighth album, "Almanac." In the vein of kindred spirits Colter Wall and Corb Lund, Barber is a working rancher and penned these 12 tunes on his farm in northwestern Manitoba and recorded them with a crack band in Winnipeg. His authentic, direct-from-the-heart delivery speaks to his humility and gratefulness for his natural surroundings. He has a gift of painting vivid character portraits and expressing his messages in the no frills, John Prine-like manner.

The opener, "Something to Say," sets the tone with Barber urging us to listen and to appreciate the small details, with his casual, relaxed demeanor. "Still Got You" was penned during the pandemic, Barber sensing the dichotomy between enjoying the comfort of his rural life and the social unrest taking place globally in the Black Lives Matter protests. He's trying, as sung in the jaunty chorus, to fight off the guilty side of those feelings. "I Told You So" is a poignant expression of grief, where a neighbor goes all the way into town before realizing she left her wallet at home, knowing too that her husband can't react to it, as he's recently passed. The third consecutive standout is "One Good Year," what Barber calls a "prairie parable" that could be applied to almost any Canadian farmer on the prairie – grateful for the harvest but fearful that it's not enough.

"Even God Almighty" is built from a poem by William Carlos Williams where Barbe envisions God in the grocery store, buying fruit and pulling out a crumpled sheet of paper with the poem on it. "Jared" is about a character that traces to Barber's at a Winnipeg drug rehabilitation center. The ranch hand tale "Spade" has a clever chorus – "You can call a spade a spade but out, Jim, a spade is just a shovel." His two songs about couples are also must listens as he paints the picture of a content old couple in "Me and Jim" and "Maria," who pulled through a dark period with her lover. He owes the rambling bluegrass closer, "On My Way Out the Door" to his recently passed dad. These packed with wisdom songs just roll off Barber's tongue so unpretentiously that you feel you want to sit down and have a beer with him.

CDs by Del Barber

Almanac, 2023 Prairieography, 2014

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