Jamie Barnes

Honey from the Ribcage

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AllMusic Review by

Jamie Barnes' sophomore effort is a pleasant listen that shows once again that one-man bands can be pretty detailed things these days, given home-recording capabilities. The list of instruments played is as long as one's arm, but the key needs to be whether or not it's all worth something in the end. On balance, it is, though Honey from the Ribcage is more contemplative than in your face, often creating an easy feeling not all that far removed from, say, Dan Fogelberg -- but if that doesn't raise hackles automatically, then there's nothing to fear. As it is, Barnes has more on his mind than reflections on masculinity during the Carter Administration, with songs touching on Biblical themes (the album title refers to the story of Samson) and questions of spirituality slowly, gently unfolding across the course of 40 minutes. Barnes' warm, softly yearning voice is instantly calming, an instrument in its own right that suggests lazy hours on a porch during a warm spring evening. That he can tackle the kind of subjects and language almost more familiar from the rampages of the Swans or Nick Cave's extremities on gentler songs like "Three Suns" and make it work is well to his credit. The album's only guest, Will Cummings, adds some great organ and harmonies on "Red Prescription," but Barnes' harmonies with himself stand up just fine elsewhere. Musically, Barnes' attention to detail often comes to the fore unexpectedly -- consider how the echo and what sounds initially like soft trumpet during the break on "Snow Angel" add a cascading depth to a strong song. The jauntier swing of "Pearly Gate & Son Pest Control" -- which has an absolutely brilliant title and perversely humorous lyrical conceit in addressing unsettling subject matter about sin and a vengeful deity -- shows yet another side to this surprisingly complex album.

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