Singer/song writer Del Barber blew in from Winnipeg, Manitoba, like a warm prairie wind on Saturday, October 29, and won a lot of Ontario hearts.
Barber was the headliner at the second concert of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage winter series: he definitely lived up to critical praise that has described him as “sincere and heartfelt” and “electric” on stage.
Winner just last week of two Western Music Awards, Barber was completely at ease in the intimate St. Lawrence stage setting. His songs ranged from the jaunty Walking Down Town with a Country Girl to the poignant and memorable Home to Manitoba.
Barber is a born raconteur.
His songs are introduced with anecdotes and stories that serve the narrative flavour of his music well. Although he is a proud Westerner, he understands the ambivalence about the west many prairie people have.
“Western Canada is young, I guess, and it just hasn’t laid down the roots it needs,” Barber told the audience. “So many young people just dream of leaving their small towns.”
His song about a waitress who spent all her young years believing that she needed to “escape” the prairies to find her “perfect man and perfect kids” touched a chord.
“Her dreams fell asleep on the top bunk/And woke up on the floor…”
He sang of the eternal hold the land has on Western Canadians in the touching Home to Manitoba.
“There’s a piece of land still holds/The shadow of my name..”
Barber also has a gift for sharing with listeners the hilarious, the ironic, the unexpected fun of every day life.
The crowd roared with laughter as he described in wonderful songs his misadventures as a travelling artist in the wilds of northern Manitoba, as a teenager driving his first blind date Jasmine in his mom’s 1992 Dodge Colt, as a secret lover of Archie comics.
Barber sings with passion and humour. His guitar doesn’t just accompany him, he makes it sing along with him. There is a lot of the poet in his song lyrics: he has a way of finding just the right way to say things.
When he completed his set audiences left the concert hall literally grinning.
Opening for Del Barber was Carleton Place artist Brea Lawrenson.
Only in the early days of a promising musical career, Lawrenson is still developing the polish, and the on-stage ease, that are so much the elements of a seasoned musical performer. However, as she grew more comfortable with the Saturday night audience, her lyrics became clearer, her singing more controlled. When she and brother Sean sang together, her talent was evident.
There is a lot of passion and power in this emerging young artist. Her deep love of family and her dreams for the future colour the lyrics of her songs like the touching Hold On (written about her mother’s support) and Somewhere to Go, her determination to make it in the musical world.
Brea Lawrenson will be an artist to watch as her career unfolds.
The audiences at the Saturday concert certainly enjoyed a memorable concert evening.
Del Barber, who told the Leader in an earlier interview that he likes to “read,” to “get the feel of his listeners” when he performs, found a whimsical and typically humorous way to tell Saturday’s concert goers how much he was enjoying his South Dundas reception.
“Sometimes when I perform, I feel a bit like a man wearing a hot dog costume trying to sell hot dogs to people who really want burgers. But here in Morrisburg, I kind of feel I’m a man in a hot dog suit selling hots dogs to people who actually want hot dogs.”
The next concert in the St. Lawrence Stage series will take place on November 19, an evening of Intimate Acoustics.