Live Review: Matthew Barber


Matthew Barber
Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY
May 13, 2009
By David Chiu

Matthew Barber, a young Canadian singer-songwriter, played at his first ever show in Brooklyn last Wednesday opening for Jill Sobule. While his set was very brief, Barber seemed to make the most of that opportunity and perhaps endeared himself to the audience.

Hailing from Toronto, Barber has recorded four albums; his latest record, Ghost Notes, is the first one to be officially released in the U.S. and had earned him a recent JUNO Award nomination. He has previously toured the States; his sister Jill is also a musician—both of them played together on their Sibling Revlery Tour.

Barber brought Ghost Notes’ folk pop sensibilities onstage at Union Hall performing just by himself with his acoustic guitar. Naturally the songs from Ghost Notes the very tall and somewhat lanky musician played were stripped down to its barest essentials but still retained their melodicism such as the soulful balled “Easily Bruised” and I’m Gonna Settle My Accounts With You.”; “Sleep Comes to Me” has a very bluegrass feel. The rest of the material from the set included the somewhat bluesy “Cinammon Hearts,” which he described as a Valentine’ Day song; “True Believer,” a tune inspired by Lefty Frisell; and the closer “I Wasn’t Born To Leave You.”

Despite the very earnest and sometimes somber nature of the lyrics, Barber injected a good does of levity into the performance with his sense of self-deprecating humor. Perhaps the only downer from that evening was the fact that he didn’t play more songs from Ghost Notes– there are some really strong cuts on that album in addition to the aforementioned three he performed. Regardless, it’s safe to say that the Brooklynites at the Hall got a fairly good taste of this Canadian artist’s sound.

A Brief Q & A with Matthew Barber:

1. How is it playing to American audiences who perhaps don’t know your music as opposed to playing to Canadian audiences?

American audiences are similar to Canadian as far as I can tell.? So far so good. It’s a challenge to play for people who don’t know your music at all, but it’s also liberating because you have a blank slate with which to make your first impression.

2. With the release of Ghost Notes in the U.S., what do you hope American listeners come away from this album, and your music in general? Do you have any expectations?

I hope that people catch on to my music and spread it around the country through word of mouth or Internet or whatever. I’d love to tour in the U.S. more extensively. I’d like to reach people who are interested in quality music and especially those that dig good singer-songwriters, and who will appreciate sincerity.

3. Aside from touring and promoting for this album, what projects are you currently working on? Are you working on any new songs?

I’m in the planning stages of my next record. Most of the songs are written, some are being finished, and I’m experimenting a lot in my home studio. I’m also recording and mixing some other bands at my studio, and getting my vegetable garden together.

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