The Family Album
Brother and sister singer-songwriters Matthew Barber and Jill Barber always knew they’d make an album together. Growing up outside Toronto in the 1990s, they shared not only a left-handed guitar (older brother Matthew got the first one) but also a passion for music that fuelled their respective artistic careers. Two different paths were carved, but never did they diverge so much that they might not meet up again. Eventually they did and The Family Album was born.
Produced by Matthew and Jill themselves, The Family Album is a folk record. It’s a record that enthusiastically harkens back to sibling singers of yesteryear, but also one that is not afraid to paint from a broad palette of both traditional sounds and contemporary flourishes. There are just enough hooks and plenty of licks. The vocals are up front, the harmonies are simple, the performances are live and the exquisite band is laid-back. Mixed by Grammy-winner Michael Piersante, the record is warm and full of textures. It aims to be classy in an unadorned way.
The Family Album consists of five new compositions (two by Matthew and three by Jill) that were written for this album and exist broadly in the folk/country/old-time-songbook world (with the possible exception of Jill’s anthem “One True Love” which has a pop kick to it). Matthew’s “The Sweeter The Dawn” floats dreamily and burns slowly while the ballad “Grandpa Joe” is a tribute to the siblings’ Scottish maternal grandfather they never knew. Jill’s “Today” is a classic affirmation of love in the face of fear, and “Big Picture Window” is her country take on settling down and making a home.
The rest of the album is comprised of six covers that were chosen from a long list of songs that were pitched, discussed, attempted and roughly recorded on an iPhone during a few sessions in Vancouver (Jill’s home), Toronto (Matthew’s home) and California (during a family vacation). The songs were chosen for their personal significance, their relevance to the album’s themes of family, loyalty, time and memories, or simply for how much fun they were to sing and how well they turned out in the studio.
Unintentionally (but perhaps not surprisingly) a bit of a Canadian theme emerged with selections by Gene MacClellan (“Song To A Young Seagull”) and Ian Tyson (“Summer Wages”) getting new treatments. The haunting French war-ballad “The Partisan” popularized in English by Leonard Cohen is revisited, as is Neil Young’s classic “Comes A Time” which undergoes a lush transformation. The album is rounded out by Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” and “I Must Be In A Good Place Now” by Bobby Charles, acknowledging the Barber’s fascination with the songwriting of the south, and seasoning the pan-Canadian folk repertoire with a note of “Americana.”
This great material combined with the new Barber originals makes for a rich collection of folk songs that are sung from a contemporary perspective while retaining a reverence for tradition. It is with great pride and a healthy dose of brotherly and sisterly love that we present The Family Album!