Dave’s Music #110 Matthew Barber – Old Tapes


During the last Bandcamp Friday I had this Matthew Barber album in my wishlist, and I found it kind of strange, he had two different pages, one strictly for this old tapes release and his normal account.  It appears that the release is only available digitally so make it’s own page? I’ve been a fan of Matthew who is an award winning Canadian artist that I believe doesn’t get enough love in the states.  I am not an expert at all about his music, I just love what I’ve bought.  As a natural fit for this blog, these recordings were made from 2006-13 and released in 2020 during the pandemic.  (REMEMBER Good #MusicHasNoExpirationDate) I’m guessing that he had the time to find and wrap them up in a release.  As the notes say:

A retrospective collection of home recordings, demos and rarities from 2006-2013 featuring five unreleased songs, five demos of previously-released songs and two covers.

I even found more some more informational notes on my favorite library, Discogs.   I was hoping to find a review to give me more background and I found gold.  So much I decided I could not write anything better and this person knows Matthew’s music better than I do.  I highlighted in gold what I found interesting in the Glide article written by Peter Hoetjes:

The dawning of the twenties finds Matthew Barber holding steadily at a career crossroads. After struggling to break out during the first few years of the century, he hit gold with 2008’s Ghost Notes, establishing himself as a reliable songwriter whose honest, no-frills crooning gives his music a timeless appeal. Since then, Barber has worked relentlessly, releasing a half-dozen new albums in the last ten years.

In 2016 Barber switched tactics with The Family Album, a collaboration with his sister, who shared vocal duties. 2018’s Phase of the Moon was a harmonically dense but often uneven effort, hampered by unfortunate vocal effects.

Old Tapes, released exclusively on digital, bridges the gap many artists are experiencing between fresh efforts as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent forced government shutdowns. The album is a gift for those who have diligently followed Barber during the first phase of his career, aiming to assuage their patience between LPs with a collection of previously unheard rarities.

Barber stacks a demo of “You And Me,” an understated, moving ballad from Ghost Notes, atop Old Tapes’ tracklist. The torch song’s simple construction is firm proof that conviction and vulnerability have a way of trumping flashy showmanship. None of the demos included come close to topping the cuts that made their respective albums, but the insight they provide into the conception of some of his most fondly remembered work seems worth the slightly edgier production.

This compilation also includes five previously unreleased songs, all written between 2006 and 2013. They vary a bit in style but are consistent in terms of matching Barber’s mannerisms. “Baby Don’t Come” wears its folk-country influences proudly, while the quirky “Australian Birds” is an amusing diversion. But it is “Thy Will” which sounds most like a forgotten treasure; a quiet, poignant tune which would have worked well on any of his releases from that time period, but instead found itself closing out a retrospective collection years later.

Thrown in for good measure are a couple of cover songs. Barber doesn’t have to stray far from his own formula to accommodate Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend,” simply performing the classic with an acoustic guitar. He takes a subdued, melodic approach to fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown,” smoothing out the tune’s edges without removing Lightfoot’s very recognizable pacing.

Matthew Barber has quietly prevailed as one of the Great White North’s musical treasures for well over a decade. His frank songwriting and pared-down accessibility portray him as an empathetic man; one to whom anyone with a bit of world-weariness could relate. Old Tapes is a worthwhile digression for established fans, but likely not the ideal starting point for the uninitiated.

Here’s Thy Will:

Ok so since I’m doing a more quirky review, let me agree with the writer that “Australian Birds” is just that, take a listen:

Another song I clicked LOVED immediately after the first listen, “Otherwordly Artistry” … since it was the demo of a song he’s already released Peter did not mention it above.  I loved it and had to look up the finished version.  I was hoping for a real video but just got the audio one, but at least now I know 

which album it’s on.

Another favorite song didn’t get mentioned above, “Crazy Kisses”…. I would love to have the Cactus Blossoms cover this song.  

Ok now here’s the whole album to stream…

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