PRAIRIEOGRAPHY, TRUE NORTH RECORDS
On his fourth record, and first with True North Records, Winnipeg’s Del Barber has tapped into his alt-country side with a twangy collection of tunes celebrating Canada’s geographically flattest region. Lyrically, he charts a course that travels across the country, from Fort Mac to the big smoke of Toronto. Ultimately, though, Prairieography makes it back home to its namesake.
Barber and his backing band took an organic approach to recording the album. They played all the tunes live and straight to tape just like the good old days, incorporating country fiddle and pedal steel in addition to guitars and drums. Pedal steel guitarist Bill Western’s parts were re-recorded in a 150-foot grain silo to make use of its natural reverb. The organic approach makes the album feel like an authentic throwback to Del’s influences.
These gambits could have backfired, but they’ve paid off. Prairieography is Barber’s most diverse release to date. “Country Girl” sounds like it could be a lost Hank Williams tune thanks to the pedal steel and violin, while “All That It Takes” uses a soulful, ‘50s chord progression. Fingerpicked guitar and dobro set the scene for the earnestly Canadian ballad, “Tell Me Where to Start.” The lyrics are more down to earth and less verbose than usual, which helps the impressive instrumentation to stand out.
By separating the wheat from the chaff, Prairieography is Barber’s best effort to date. It suggests that there’s more to the prairies than most people assume, and nobody knows that better than Del Barber.
By Dylan S. Keating