Tim Barry - Lost & Rootless (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Tim Barry

Lost & Rootless (2014)


By now, it’s not necessary to mention Tim Barry’s ”other band.” From 2005’s Laurel Street Demo all the way through to his last collection of new material, 2012’s 40 Miler, Barry has proven himself to be his own artist. Far from the screamer of years past, the Virginia-based singer/songwriter now prefers to strum a guitar, singing about the broken lives and common hardships of his life and those around him. Lost & Rootless, Barry’s newest release on Chunksaah, continues down that same path, showing a storyteller that can still pull at your heartstrings and bite into your soul, while making you clap and sing along at the same time.

First recorded in his shed, Lost & Rootless maintains a beautiful simplicity throughout. “’Cause I can’t breathe without you,” Barry sings on “No News From the North,” the album opener. With only his vocals and guitar, backed with a plaintive violin (played by Caitlin Hunt on various tracks), the aching is evident in Barry’s voice as he sings, “God damn I still can’t move, I’d cover the cost of a flight for you to stay one night.” On “The James” he sings that “the sun’s still shining over the James” at song’s end, giving a wink to “Scuffle Town” (from 1998’s Over The James).

“Older and Poorer” is a down home sing-along detailing the love between a man and woman (Barry and his wife, perhaps?), and the life changes that happen as time marches on. “Breathe Slow, Let ‘Em Pass” details what a young man may (or may not) do in order to get by. A highlight of the album is Barry’s take on Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons,” a song of a man struggling to escape from his past “tryin’ to hide my sorrow from the people I meet.” It’s a heartbreaking song, and he makes it his own, making the listener feel just as lonely and lost as the man in the song.

On “Knowing Such Things” he lashes against “old motherfuckers who ain’t got no heart,” casually using only his voice and guitar. “Solid Gone” is a heart-wrenching song that will knife into the listener’s heart, bringing to mind “Dog Bumped” off 2006’s Rivanna Junction, closing with the line “But we always done what needed to be done.” The closing song, “Mayfly,” slowly lulls the album to a close, repeating the refrain, “If only we’d had more time.” An eternal and universal regret.

“Pull up a seat, and ice them knuckles /Poppa’s front porch has got plenty of open chairs,” Tim Barry sings on “Poppa’s Front Porch,” one of many standout tracks. It’s an apt description of the record, as the 13 songs presented on Lost & Rootless are largely as open and welcoming as a front porch gathering, while others, like “The James” the “Mayfly,” are as warm and intimate as a quiet night by the fire. Presented together from beginning to end, Tim Barry has crafted what is arguably the finest record of his career.