Nik Barrell has been plying his trade since back in 2010 when he released his first album and since then he has been able to make around one release a year and 2018 is no different. This December saw the release of his latest masterpiece, Joy.
Joy is an uncompromising look at the world through relentlessly rose-tinted glasses and as we close what could be construed as a rather tumultuous year, it’s exactly what we need right now. Right from the opening track A Promise to Myself it is rife with this upbeat, jovial tune that no matter how grey the skies might be is utterly contagious. Atop this overly positive styling Barrell has a unique and catchy voice – there is a real charisma and passion in what he sings and songs like Fiction of Love are a perfect example of just how contagious a man he can be as you find yourself humming along to it four days later without another thought in the world. With a smooth and playful voice it’s tough to frown while you listen to Joy.
Barrell brings Joy into your life with his dextrous, daring and debonair collection of accompanying instruments. Warming bass lines and eager guitar melodies flood his work while brazen bouts of brass bubble below the surface. Tin whistles, flutes, keyboard, piano and gospel organ – everything seems to swirl together in these rich, atmospheric tunes. Songs like Morning Sunrise are brilliant contemporary folk-rock pieces rife with hard, edgy guitar riffs and moody bass but also affirming organ. This rich and eclectic nature is what makes Joy such a pleasure to listen to. These formations are never headed where you expect them to and as you hear blaring saxophone seeping through what is otherwise a normal folk melody, it’s an inspiring and niche blend that completely absorbs you from start to finish.
Joy is the musical version of Ronseal – it does what it says on the tin. Simply put, it’s a veritable joy to listen to. Barrell has spent years honing his skills and this is the result of all that time and work. A perfect, playful and at times even lightly sultry album that blends together dashes of folk, blues, jazz, swing, indie, rock and so much more to create a heady mixture that will keep you gasping for the next song.
Review by Joe Knipe