Jeb Barry is one of those relentlessly talented individuals that you stumble upon every once and a while. An immensely prolific performer with more than 4000 compositions to his name, Barry has mastered the art of pure and unadulterated honesty within his songs. With that sense of honesty in mind it is notable that his work contains no autotune, no special effects or electronic sounds – just the dark, sombre and bourbon fuelled country melodies that he crafts by his own hand.
Not shying away from the darkness of the cracks in life, this year saw the release of Texas, Etc. – a daring double disc from Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints that exemplifies in a matter of seconds just how much talent Barry has at his fingertips. When an artist brings out an album like this it is always a treat as it’s a clear indication that after all the cutting and culling of lesser songs that there were still too many perfect ones left over to allow for a single release. Split into two very separate discs The Sainted and The Saintless the album has a very distinctive and unique feeling to it as it touches on the concept of hope and the hopeless. Unsurprisingly, Texas, Etc. is a wonderful collection of rich and fired up country melodies that will ignite a fire in your chest and leave songs smouldering in your mind for days.
Barry has a rich and ever so slightly smoky set of vocals which carry a deep resonance within them – the kind of whisky-washed voice that is ideal for singing tales of love in the Deep South. It’s actually the rawness and versatility of Barry’s voice that makes for such a charismatic collection of songs. In The Sainted his voice is coarse and virulent while when you get to the Saintless his voice is a cracked and beautiful shadow of its predecessor – almost like another voice altogether – and the effect is stunning. There is a truly disparate sense between the two discs and driven by his firm and enigmatic guitar melodies and deep, rumbling bass lines. Recorded totally unaided by computers there is a warming edge to these tracks almost akin to the charmed crackling as you lower a needle onto a record. This warm and honest feeling washes over you and envelopes you in a series of songs that will burn in you for a lifetime.
Having been in and out of the limelight since the late 80s Barry is no stranger to his craft and this is evident in the phenomenal work he produces. Texas, Et.c is the latest in a long line of successes and it’s an album that will doubtless see Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints propelled to new heights across the globe.
Review by Joe Knipe