TIM BARRY “28th & Stonewall”

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Promotional write-ups like this are generally loaded with hyperbole and bullshit intended to sell records and CDs and digital downloads and ringtones and all kinds of other stuff.

However, this is a press release for Tim Barry’s latest recording, a 12-song effort entitled 28th & Stonewall and it’s gonna be a little different. See, Barry, a singer-songwriter and former front man for Virginia punk stalwarts Avail, is vigorously opposed to bullshit. So the goal here is to give you an honest, hype-free introduction to 28th & Stonewall, which hits stores and the web on January 26, 2010, thanks to the good people at Suburban Home, an indie Colorado label.

Barry’s third full-length recording as a solo artist builds on the sound that’s garnered him a small but dedicated following over the past few years, weaving together folk, low-fi country, and classic rock. If you ask Barry, he’ll tell you he just got together with friends in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia and put down a bunch of fresh songs with some real talented musicians. He thinks the tunes are pretty good.

“I like the flow of it, the peaks and valleys, the way it goes up and down,” says Barry, who wrote the bulk of the songs in a three week burst while home from tour. He’s quick to give longtime collaborator and co-producer Lance Koehler props for his work on the album: “The quality of the recording is by far the best Lance has done, and the mastering is real good.”

If you ask other folks about 28th & Stonewall, they’re likely to tell you it’s one of the best things he’s done in a music career that’s spanned nearly two decades. (Yeah, we know, that borders dangerously on hype.) Words that come to mind in describing the new record: pretty, funny, honest, guarded, rockin’, sweet.

It’s also a step in a different direction for Barry. While 2008′s harrowing Manchester painted almost exclusively in shades of black, 28th & Stonewall utilizes a much wider palette of colors, moving deftly from mood to mood. Kicking off with “Thing of the Past,” an infectious country stomper built around a crisp electric guitar riff and pedal steel twang, Barry gets playful and raucous with the help of the No BS Brass Band on the bluesy “Will Travel,” and clowns around on “Downtown VCU” and “Bus Driver.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise is “Prosser’s Gabriel,” a fury-laden five-minute-long historical sketch about a failed slave uprising in Virginia. The song, featured in a recent issue of Beyond Race magazine, has already become a staple of Barry’s live performances.

Of course, this a Tim Barry record and a Tim Barry record wouldn’t be complete without some beautiful, heart-on-sleeve slow-burners. “You ain’t looked my way in months,” he laments on “Moving on Blue,” a gorgeous organ-driven chronicle of love lost, featuring Daniel Clark (a regular with Ryan Adams) on keys. On “With Ease I Leave,” Barry sits atop a hill overlooking the city, lonely and confused, watching freight trains haul coal beneath a winter sky: “I know I think too much and spend too much time alone.”

Barry, who’s maintained a relentless touring schedule over the past couple of years, recorded 28th & Stonewall in Richmond at Koehler’s Minimum Wage Studios, and tapped an array of Richmonders to back him, including his sister Caitlin Hunt on violin and guitarist Josh Small, a frequent tour mate. With the new record poised to drop, he expects to spend a very large chunk of 2010 on the road, playing everything from grimy dive bars to decent-sized theaters.

At a time when most of his contemporaries from the underground music scene have slowed down, quit playing, or found steady 9-to-5s, Barry finds himself more immersed in music than ever. “I could stay at home and make a lot more money working at the Richmond Ballet, but I wouldn’t feel fulfilled,” he says. His dedication to the craft shines through on 28th & Stonewall.