Pawn Shop Saints
Dolly Rocker Records
World Weary Minimalist Country Songs
A few years back, singer-songwriter Jeb Barry traveled through Appalachia and other parts of the Southern United States, writing fifty songs in the process, nine of which are presented in Ordinary Folks, the third release from the New England band the Pawn Shop Saints.
These recordings fall under the category of “minimalist country band” and are really the only things necessary to flesh out Barry’s songs.
Mixed with the vocals up front to create a more intimate mood, and with sparse bass and drums, these nine vignettes into “ordinary folks” lives, cut like a knife, leaving a strong impression on me for days while I listened to them off and on, driving around in my old Chevy van.
Barry’s songs are slow to mid tempo Country Ballad rockers which thankfully tend to stray from the usual subject matter regulated to Country artists who aren’t John Prine.
With a good eye for detail and a perfect voice for melancholy (Barry’s vocal chords fire up in a similar way as does Paul Westerberg’s—world weary, tough, with just a dash of the right type of naivety) he tells these short stories almost as if they’re coming to him fully fleshed.
“Body in the River” could be any small town flood, yet the particulars that Barry hangs on (“Get out the back door, fire up the Ford, and keep one eye on the dam,”) bring up too many ghosts to just be an imagined place and time.
“New Year’s Eve, Somewhere in the Midwest” could be a Country Cousin to the songs on Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. The story of a man out of his element, with nowhere to go, and everything to lose, yet hoping for a miracle in the New Year as redemption.
“Lynyrd Skynyrd” is a paean to the Jacksonville, Florida band and if you think this song could be the throwaway one on the album, well, lines such as “Running small town streets, weed was cheap, girls were mean,“and Barry’s sincere delivery will prove you wrong.
The closest we get to a love song is “Pack a Day” but it’s not romantic love Barry is singing mournfully about here, yet the love of something that can slowly kill you.
I really dig Barry’s songs, and the band does a great job on the arrangements—just next time turn up the bass a bit!
Other than that, this is one mighty fine album.
Review courtesy the Legendary Roy Peak
Pawn Shop Saints