Tim Barry - 28th & Stonewall (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Tim Barry

28th & Stonewall (2010)

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It seems like only yesterday we were posting news of Avail frontman Tim Barry and his initial excursions as a solo artist, yet here we are with yet another new full-length from him (his fourth in five years if we're counting 2006's Laurel St. Demo): 28th & Stonewall. And while Stonewall is probably the least strongest of Barry's output thus far, it's solid enough that it can hardly be perceived as a regression.

Much like "Texas Cops" from 2008's Manchester and "Trash Inspirations" from 2006's Rivanna Junction, "Thing of the Past" serves as a slightly upbeat and competent opening track, anchored primarily by the boot scootin' electric guitar stylings of Josh Small. The brash and brutally honest demeanor Barry takes on when he's performing these types of songs is when he's at his best; other prime examples of this from Stonewall would have to include the bluesy, horn-driven "Will Travel," the extremely passionate "Short G'Bye" (the conviction in Barry's voice in the chorus when yelling "I tried" is particularly goosebump-inducing), and the one-two closing punch of "(Memento Mori)" and "Bus Driver," the latter of which gets fairly rowdy thanks to some strategically-placed harmonica and gang vocals (yes, really) that could very well replace "Dog Bumped" as Barry's de facto set closer.

28th & Stonewall is a bit hit-and-miss when reaching for softer, more introspective textures, but when it's on, it's really on. Barry's piano ballads have always been great, and the heart-wrenching "Moving on Blue" is certainly no exception; Barry's vocal performances have steadily improved over the years, and on "Blue" it's clear he's able to carry a song with little more than his vocal cords with relative ease. He takes a similarly somber approach on "Bozeman," where the speed (or lack thereof) match the tone of the lyrics perfectly and the lap steel guitar (presumably played by Small as well) is a welcome, if familiar touch.

The aforementioned misses on Stonewall are twofold and directly related to each other; at nearly five minutes apiece, both "Prosser's Gabriel" and "With Ease I Leave" drag quite a bit (although the former tackles a tricky subject admirably, it could be about a minute shorter without sacrificing any of its gravity) and make the album seem a lot heavier on slower songs than it actually is--the ratio of slow to fast songs here is probably 7:5, depending on who you ask--which ultimately hurts its replay value. Hardly a fatal blow by any means, but devastating enough to rank this record below both Manchester and Rivanna Junction in terms of overall quality. Regardless, there's more than enough good songs on 28th & Stonewall to keep Barry's growing legacy intact.