October 18th, 2023 10:30pm Stage 2
Brad Barr (of the Barr Brothers)
Over a career that spans three decades, Brad Barr has cultivated a uniquely visceral, disarmingly intimate approach to the guitar. If you’re already a fan of the Montreal-based Barr Brothers, or the legendary improv-rock trio The Slip, then you already know — it’s futile to try and categorize his ongoing experiments in sound and songwriting.
It’s a never-ending quest of sorts. The Providence, RI native is ever searching for an expression that’s free of cliches and idioms, universal in spirit, bold as love. His approach petitions you to lean in and listen — as if that, more than anything, were the point of it all. To be of service to the moment. His song-writing speaks with us — not at us — with both a confessional wisdom and a child’s eye; with the hope of seeing the world and its dusks and dawns and dreams like it did the first time.
Hidden depths emerge. In something as quotidien as “the blues”, Brad Barr’s ear picks up the strains of a borderless sound that has criss-crossed the world for thousands of years. Carnatic ragas flow seamlessly into the Mississippi Delta. The oblong rhythms of the Sahel are imbibed by the sage and smoke of a Navajo love song. The telluric forces of the Earth heave through the open portal of an amplified guitar.
His musical journeys, almost always in lockstep with sibling drummer Andrew Barr, have taken them on chimerical paths: from all-night sets at jam festivals to the main stages of Newport Folk and Montreal Jazz; from tightly focused avant-rock collaborations to atmospheric reverb-laced folk ballads. Starting in the mid-90s, their trio The Slip built a global cult following for their wide-ranging compositions and deeply improvisational sets. When the two brothers moved to Montreal in 2005, they started a new chapter with experimental harpist Sarah Pagé and formed the Barr Brothers. The ensuing three albums have each been nominated for a Juno award, and they have shared the bill with such artists as My Morning Jacket, Calexico, Bela Fleck, The War on Drugs, Tinariwen, Built to Spill, The Prodigy, Emmylou Harris, and others.
Amidst the pandemic, Brad released his second instrumental recording, called THE WINTER MISSION (Secret City Records), with a simple rule: just the guitar. Its raw, unsettling intimacy is described as “an album of riches that needs to be given plenty of listens and plenty of time. It will certainly reward you.”
At the heart is an artist who is constantly reinventing himself — whether in the studio or in front of audiences — and the mystery of what might happen next is always there. There is an accumulated treasure trove of songs, both lyric and instrumental, from his thirty-plus years of constant exploration; and there is Brad himself, already leaning into the next turn, trying mostly to surprise himself... and the listener is along for the ride.