- 14 Jun 21
Compelling effort from south-east folk maestro
We know all politics is local, but the lockdowns have proven how crucial music is to localities everywhere, not least in the rural outlands, where small armies of committed musicians keep the homegrown fires burning.
Folk-rock singer Ian Barry is a pillar of the live indie scene in the south-east, and this is his third album, with much of the lyrical focus on his family and the where he lives. The title relates to the amount of time he and his wife have been together, whilst the album cover is an enigmatic shot of the family by Tom Dunne. 'Marion's Polka', meanwhile is actually named for his wife – you don't get music much more local than that!
Recorded using mainly Wexford musicians to support his own vocals, guitars, piano, bouzouki and percussion, 26 Times Better proves that songs about family relationships, domestic life and local landmarks can – in the hands of a skilled songwriter like Barry – fit seamlessly with those on more universal topics.
'Ferrybank' has obvious local resonances, as does the introspective 'Dreaming Of Skinstown'. 'Chocolate For Breakfast' is a captivating, jazz-tinged offering, and 'Let's Make God Laugh' – with neat harmonies from Trish Gallagher – reflects Barry's finely-tuned sense.
The autographical title-track builds sturdily from a sparse beginning, with Barry not shy of wearing his heart (and art) on his sleeve. While many albums are a collection of disconnected tracks, 26 Times Better offers a more complete musical experience, not least because of Barry's consistently rich voice. Producer Mick Egan marshals the troops to fine effect.
A sprinkling of contemporary influences might have been welcome here and there, but otherwise Barry's effort delivers a convincing victory for home teams everywhere.